California Living Trust Forms

A California living trust form is a legal document that controls the transfer of any property you have placed in the trust. When the grantor dies, the beneficiaries you’ve named in that document receive the trust property. 

A California living trust allows you to do the same basic job as a will, with the added benefit of avoiding probate.

You can transfer all your property to your beneficiaries by living trust or, if appropriate, use a living trust to transfer only some assets, transferring the rest by other methods. Also, living trust forms normally are not made public at your death. Wills, on the other hand, become part of the public record during the probate process.

A California Revocable Living Trust Form

Living Trusts are called Revocable Living Trusts because you can revoke or change them at any time, for any reason, before you die (as long as you are mentally competent). You still effectively own all property you’ve transferred to your living trust in California and you can do anything you want with your property, including selling it, spending it, or giving it away.

Creating the Living Trust in California

To establish a living trust, you first complete the California living trust forms. In it, you name yourself as trustee to manage the trust property and a successor trustee (usually a family member or a close friend) to distribute the property when you die. 

You also name the trust beneficiaries, who receive the property when you die. You then formally transfer property into the trust’s name. When you die, the successor trustee simply obtains the property from whomever holds it and transfers it to the named beneficiaries. No probate or other court proceeding is required.

ca living trust

A California Living Trust form will include documents that specify:

  • The “trustee,” who has the authority to manage the trust property; you name yourself as the trustee
  • The “successor trustee,” who turns the trust property over to the beneficiaries after your death
  • The property that is subject to the trust 
  • The “beneficiary” or beneficiaries of the trust, who receive the trust property at your death, and
  • Other terms of the trust, including the fact that you can amend or revoke it at any time.

A living trust can work as effectively for a couple as for a single person. And any couple, married or not, can use one livingtrust to handle both their shared and individually owned property. 

Transferring Trust Property Into the Trustee’s Name

An essential step in making your California Living Trust Forms effective is to transfer ownership (title) of property to the trustee. If you don’t, your successor trustee won’t be able to transfer it to your beneficiaries. 

Some paperwork is necessary to complete transfer of the trust property to the beneficiaries, such as preparing new ownership documents. Still, these matters can normally be handled in no more than a few weeks, without a lawyer. Once the trust property is legally received by the beneficiaries, the trust ceases to exist.

title insurance

An Extra Step for California: Title Insurance

Normally, title insurance on real estate transfers automatically when you place that real estate in your living trust. However, there can be a problem with this in California. A California appellate court decision ruled that a specific title insurance policy was unenforceable because the real estate involved had been transferred to a living trust, a “voluntary transfer” not covered by the policy. As a result of that ruling, the California legislature passed a law mandating that a title insurance policy remain in force when the real estate it covers is transferred to a living trust. This law is effective as of May 18, 2014. But the law is not retroactive. This means that if you own California real estate with a title policy issued before May 18, 2014 and you intend to transfer that real estate to your living trust, you should ask your title company whether you need it to give you an “endorsement” agreeing that the policy will remain in force. Obtaining an endorsement will require a bit of paperwork, and possibly a fee of around $100.


Transferring Property Without Title to a California Living Trust

Household items and many other types of property may not have a title, however you can still transfer them to the trust. 

Household belongings, furniture, clothing, jewelry, furs, tools, most farm equipment, antiques, electronic and computer equipment, works of art, bearer bonds, cash, precious metals, and collectibles. 

In California you transfer these items to the trust simply by listing them on a trust schedule. In addition, you can use a “Notice of Assignment” form, a simple document that states that the property listed on it has been transferred to the trustee’s name. In New York, state law requires that you use such a separate document.

Transferring Property With Ownership (Title Document) to a California Living Trust

All items of trust property that have ownership documents (title papers) must be registered in the trustee’s name.

Your living trust won’t affect any property with an ownership document that is not re-registered in the trustee’s name.

Example of property with title documents that must be transferred includes:

  • real estate, including condominiums and cooperatives
  • bank accounts
  • stocks and stock accounts
  • most bonds, including U.S. government securities
  • corporations, limited partnerships, and partnerships
  • money market accounts
  • mutual funds
  • safe deposit boxes, and
  • vehicles, including cars, most boats, motor homes, and planes.

last will

Can a California Living Trust be revoked ?

Yes, a California living trust can be revoked, completely or partially, at any time before the grantor’s death. This means that you retain full control over the assets in the trust and can change your mind about how they will be distributed after you die.

There are several ways to revoke a California living trust:

  • Written Declaration of Revocation: This is the most common method. You will need to create a written document stating that you are revoking your trust and deliver it to your trustee.
  • Destruction of the Trust Instrument: Destroying the physical copy of the trust document can also be effective in revoking it. However, it is important to note that this method is not always reliable and may be challenged in court.
  • Merger with the Grantor’s Estate: If you transfer all of the assets from your trust back to yourself, the trust will effectively be merged with your estate and will no longer be in effect.

It is important to remember that the specific procedures for revoking a California living trust may vary depending on the terms of the trust document. Therefore, it is always best to consult with an attorney to ensure that you are following the correct procedures.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about revoking a California living trust:

  • You can revoke your trust only if you are still mentally competent. If you become incapacitated, your successor trustee will be responsible for managing the trust according to its terms.
  • If you revoke your trust, you will need to make new arrangements for how your assets will be distributed after your death. You may want to create a new will or update your existing one.
  • Revoking a trust can have tax implications. You should consult with a tax advisor to understand the potential tax consequences of this action.

What happens with the Living Trust If You Move From California to Another State

transfer trust

Your living trust remains legal and valid if you move to a different state after establishing it. Revocable living trusts are valid and used in every state.

However, if you’re married, and you move from a community property state to a common law state or vice versa, you may want to check the marital property ownership laws of your new state to make sure that the property you believe is yours really is.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Living Trusts


  1. What is a California living trust form?

A California living trust form is a legal document that controls the transfer of any property you have placed in the trust. It allows you to name a trustee to manage your assets and distribute them to your beneficiaries according to your wishes, avoiding probate court.

  1. What are the benefits of using a California living trust form?

There are several benefits to using a California living trust form, including:

  • Avoiding probate court: This can save time and money, and it can also keep your affairs private.
  • Making it easier to manage your assets if you become incapacitated: If you become incapacitated, your trustee can manage your assets for you without having to go through probate court.
  • Providing for your loved ones: You can use a living trust to name beneficiaries to receive your assets after your death.
  1. Who can create a California living trust form?

Anyone can create a California living trust form, regardless of their age or marital status.

  1. How do I create a California living trust form?

You can create a California living trust form yourself, with the help of an online legal service, or by hiring a lawyer.

  1. What do I need to include in a California living trust form?

You will need to include the names of the grantor, trustee, successor trustee, and beneficiaries in your California living trust form. You will also need to list the property that you are transferring to the trust.

  1. How do I transfer property to a California living trust form?

You can transfer property to a California living trust form by re-registering the ownership documents in the name of the trustee. You can also use a Notice of Assignment form to transfer property that does not have ownership documents.

  1. What happens to my property if I move from California after creating a living trust?

Your living trust will remain valid if you move to a different state. However, you may want to check the marital property ownership laws of your new state to make sure that the property you believe is yours really is.

  1. Do I need a lawyer to create a California living trust form?

No, you do not need a lawyer to create a California living trust form. However, if your estate plan is complex, you may want to consult with a lawyer.

  1. Where can I find more information about California living trust forms?

You can find more information about California living trust forms on the website of the California Secretary of State. You can also find information about living trusts from online legal services and from libraries.

  1. What is the difference between a will and a living trust?

A will is a legal document that states how you want your property to be distributed after your death. A living trust is a legal document that allows you to transfer ownership of your property to a trustee, who will manage the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries you name in the trust.

Creating a Valid Living Trust by Yourself

Some people have a lawyer prepare their living trust. If your estate plan calls for combining a living trust with sophisticated ongoing trusts designed to minimize taxes, it’s likely you’ll need a lawyer to prepare these trusts for you. But other people can safely complete the California living trust form themselves or with aid of online legal preparation services. In fact, even if you fully intend to pay a lawyer to draft documents, it’s still a good idea to educate yourself about living trusts and even to prepare a draft trust.

Additional California Living Trust Resources

Glossary of Living Trust Terms in California

General Terms:

  • Grantor: The person who creates and funds the trust.
  • Trustee: The person or institution responsible for managing the assets in the trust according to the trust terms.
  • Beneficiary: The person or entity who receives the benefits of the trust assets.
  • Trust Agreement: The legal document that outlines the terms of the trust, including the rights and responsibilities of the grantor, trustee, and beneficiaries.
  • Revocable Trust: A trust that the grantor can amend or revoke during their lifetime.
  • Irrevocable Trust: A trust that cannot be amended or revoked once established.
  • Principal: The original value of the assets placed in the trust.
  • Income: The earnings generated by the trust assets.
  • Remainder: The assets remaining in the trust after all income has been distributed.

California-Specific Terms:

  • Community Property: Property acquired by spouses during marriage, generally owned equally by both spouses.
  • Separate Property: Property acquired by an individual before marriage, by inheritance, or by gift, and remains separate from community property.
  • Probate: The legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate.
  • Intestate: When someone dies without a valid will, their estate is distributed according to California intestacy laws.
  • AB Trust: A type of revocable living trust designed to optimize federal estate tax benefits for married couples.
  • Conservatorship: A legal appointment to manage the affairs of an incapacitated person.
  • California Uniform Prudent Investor Act: A set of guidelines for trustees regarding the management of trust assets.

Additional Terms:

  • Successor Trustee: The person who takes over as trustee if the original trustee dies, becomes incapacitated, or resigns.
  • Contingency Beneficiary: A beneficiary who receives the trust assets if the primary beneficiary is unable to do so.
  • Pour-Over Will: A will that directs any remaining assets in the grantor’s estate to be poured over into the living trust.
  • Funding: The process of transferring assets from the grantor’s personal name to the name of the trust.

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