eli5: How does one set up a trust?


I understand that a trust is one of the ways assets can be protected from going through probate to ensure one’s dependents have access more directly and without additional hassle, but how exactly should one go about creating one?

Edit: Thank you to everyone who said to consult a lawyer. What things would you do in preparation for meeting with a lawyer? Considerations for being well-prepared, etc.

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One talks to an estate planning lawyer, because they have the experience in setting up trusts with your local laws. Legal advice on the internet is worthless.

Engage adequately trained legal and financial professionals. Even state to state is different, let alone country by country.

Don’t ask the internet. Ask a professional local to you.

Get a lawyer. Check if your work gives you legal insurance as a benefit. Often, estate planning is a free benefit, and it is only a few bucks a month. If you choose not to continue the insurance after, you still saved a lot of money.

There are lots of sample wills and trusts on the internet. Get one and look for blanks that need to be filled.

I do NOT recommend using random forms from the internet as a substitute for having a lawyer finalize your trust. But they DO serve the useful purpose of giving you some idea what questions your lawyer might want answered.

Even if you pick the wrong form (very likely) it will still give you a rough idea of the questions a lawyer (or her staff) needs to ask. For example, you are going to need the names, birthdates, addresses of everyone involved. You are going to need a list of all the property you want to put in the trust, and documentation and details about that property. Real estate requires a lot of information: documents like deeds, surveys, mortgages.

Think about what you want to put in trust and what you want to keep for yourself, or you might want to lease, develop or subdivide before giving it away. Think about whether any of your adult family members can be trusted with this sort of thing, or whether you will want to hire a professional trustee.

Having all this ready at your very first meeting will save you money.

For lawyers, time is money. After an initial consultation they are likely to bill for every 6 minutes (tenth of an hour) they have to even think about you and your trust. Top estate planning lawyers charge ridiculously high hourly rates, so wasting their time is really going to cost you.

Go to an estate lawyer, who would specialize in wills, trusts and the like. Tell them what you have, who the beneficiaries and potential future ones are, what your goals are for the trust.