I mentioned in the previous post How to Buy I Bonds: Soup to Nuts that we were creating a second trust with software to buy another $10,000 worth of I Bonds each year. A reader asked me to share more details on how we were doing it. For more on buying I Bonds in a trust account in general, please read Buy More I Bonds at TreasuryDirect in a Revocable Living Trust.
Please note I’m not a lawyer. I’m only sharing what we did for our own situation. I’m not recommending that you do the same. Please take this as only an anecdote.
Background and Purpose
Many married couples have two revocable living trusts — one for each spouse. We have only one joint trust. Both setups are perfectly valid. An attorney prepared the trust for us a few years ago. It has the two of us as both grantors and trustees.
This trust uses my Social Security Number as its tax ID. It already bought $10,000 in I Bonds this year. It also holds other assets elsewhere.
Because a trust can only buy $10,000 in I Bonds each year, we wanted a second trust that uses my wife’s Social Security Number as the tax ID. As a separate trust with a different tax ID, this second trust can buy another $10,000 worth of I Bonds each year. We will only hold I Bonds in this second trust. Our existing trust will still be our main trust.
Quicken Willmaker & Trust
Nolo (formerly Nolo Press) has been publishing DIY legal books since the 1970s. It publishes a book-and-software kit called Quicken Willmaker & Trust. Amazon sells the 2022 edition for $97 but you can get a used copy of the previous editions for much less.
The 500-page book explains what the documents do and how you should go about them. The included software on a CD uses an interview format that leads you to complete the documents based on your preferences. This approach is similar to how tax software works.
The software in Quicken Willmaker & Trust can create a will, a revocable living trust, a healthcare directive, a durable power of attorney, and some other documents related to estate planning. If we didn’t have an attorney prepare all those for us a few years ago, we would’ve used this software to create them ourselves.
I wanted to get this book-and-software kit from the public library but they didn’t have it. Instead, I found another book at the library that ended up working better for our specific situation.
Make Your Own Living Trust by Denis Clifford
This other book, Make Your Own Living Trust, now in its 15th edition, is also published by Nolo. The author Denis Clifford is an estate planning attorney. Amazon sells the book for $33.
As the title suggests, this book only covers living trust, which is fine for our purpose because that was the only thing we needed. Instead of interview-format software, it includes a link at the end to download fill-in-the-blank document templates. The book explains the different choices for the blanks in the templates.
The document templates in Rich Text Format are fully editable by Microsoft Word or compatible applications. This worked better for us because it’s more customizable whereas the software in Quicken Will & Trust only works through interviews.
Because we wanted to keep this second trust really simple, we went with this structure:
- A joint trust with the two of us as both grantors and trustees. Either trustee can act alone on behalf of the trust. We can amend or revoke the trust at any time. This is the same as in our existing trust. It’s also the default in the shared trust document template.
- The name of the trust mirrors our existing trust, only reversing the order of our names.
- When one of us dies, the deceased person’s share of the trust assets goes to the survivor. The survivor can amend or revoke the trust at any time.
- When both of us die, the trust assets dump into our existing (main) trust.
The document template has places for trust beneficiaries. We listed each other as the beneficiary when one of us dies and the main trust as the beneficiary when both of us die.
The document template says to attach a notary certificate after our signatures. Each state mandates specific language for what the notary certificate should say. I just Googled “[state] notary acknowledgment.” There’s a dedicated website for the notary acknowledgment language in each state but I prefer to get the language from an official state government site.
For example, here’s the link to the language in the Nevada state law, and here’s the one for California. The software in Quicken Will & Trust will probably automatically print the notary acknowledgment based on the state but we had to do this manually with the document template in Make Your Own Living Trust.
Our second trust became official after we signed the trust document and had it notarized. Because I got the book from the public library, our only cost was the notary fee. We can open an account for it at TreasuryDirect now. See Buy More I Bonds at TreasuryDirect in a Revocable Living Trust.
If we didn’t already have estate planning documents prepared by an attorney, Quicken Willmaker & Trust is probably easier to use because the software uses an interview format. It’s also a better value because it covers more than just the living trust.
The document templates in Make Your Own Living Trust are like the “forms mode” in tax software. You can edit the document directly but you also have to be comfortable doing it. Having to find the correct notary acknowledgment language also adds another step.
Nolo isn’t the only source for living trust software or templates. I chose Nolo only because of its history and reputation. I’m not familiar with other books or websites, and I have no basis to judge their quality.
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