Whether you retain a lawyer to prepare an estate plan, hire a document preparer, or do-it-yourself on the internet, you are not finished with your trust until you transfer almost everything that you own into the name of your trust. Otherwise, you have wasted your time preparing the trust and your will still has to be probated to transfer those assets to the trust.
In order to avoid probate (which is not the end of the world in Arizona), make sure that all of your real estate, bank accounts, business ownership, brokerage accounts, and especially stocks and bonds in your given name, are transferred out of your personal name and into the name of the trustee of your trust.
The lawyer can help you transfer your real estate into the name of your trust which requires a couple of technical steps. However, the lawyer need not be involved in transferring your bank accounts, brokerage accounts and stocks and bonds. The bankers and brokers prefer to deal directly with you in transferring those assets using the Certificate of Trust prepared by your lawyer. For security reasons, you really shouldn’t have your account numbers in anyone else’s files.
Generally, life insurance policies and retirement plans need not be transferred to your trust because their ownership will be determined by your beneficiary designations. Having stated that, there are circumstances in which life insurance or retirement plans should be transferred to your trust if necessary to provide funds to administer the trust. In either case, it’s important to determine and retain a balance between the assets to be distributed through the trust on one hand and the assets left to beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement plans on the other hand.