People often believe that they must change the name on their bank accounts as part of establishing their living trust. However, “changing” the owner of a personal bank account actually means closing the account and opening a new one in the new owner’s name. If you have ever opened a new bank account, then you know the common headaches that accompany the new account: ordering new checks, holds on deposits, and so on.
Actually, you can keep your current accounts, and name your trust as a “pay on death” (“POD”) or “transfer on death” (“TOD”) beneficiary. Under California law, if an account has a POD designation, then when the account owner dies, the POD payee automatically becomes the new owner of the funds on deposit, without having to go to probate court.
Now, if you want to open new accounts in the name of your trust, you can certainly do so, or (as noted above) you can open new accounts in your own name and use the pay on death beneficiary designation method described above.
Name whoever you like (spouse, children, and so on), and then name your trust as a backup, just in case. Since trusts do not die, the financial institutions will always have a surviving POD payee to whom the money will be turned over. Also, you may want to name your trust as the primary POD payee on at least one account, so the person named to wind up your affairs will have access to money right away, to pay final expenses and administrative costs.