Revocable Living Trust

Lots of people remain confused about the difference between a living trust and a will. With a will your estate can get tied up in probate for years, and drain a portion of the money left in the estate. A living will can help you avoid that issue. A will has to be filed in probate court whereas a living trust does not. This prevents your wishes from becoming public record. There are still other reasons why a living trust might be preferable to a will. With a living trust, and some knowledge of the law, you can avoid having to pay certain estate taxes. The living will gives you control over who gets what when you are gone, and even allows for a person of your choice to manage your matters should you have an accident or illness that leaves you unable to do so.

A living trust cuts through much of the red tape associated with wills. A living trust is created with a legal document. The document provides the information needed to distribute your belongings and property after your death. The person who creates the living trust is called the grantor. Once the property and such is listed in the living trust it then belongs to that trust – not the grantor. However, the grantor can still do whatever he or she wishes with the property and other belongings. Anything can be removed or added to the trust at any time.

One of the main reasons people create living trusts is so that their friends, loved ones and associates can quickly and easily receive the given properties or belongings upon their death. A living trust allows you to bypass probate court and keep all the beneficiaries private. Since there’s no delay through the probate court the items are distributed almost immediately upon your death. In probate court the will is filed and becomes public record. Your family then has to take inventory of your belongings and have everything appraised. The court system then validates the will. Any and all outstanding debts are paid from the estate including lawyer and court fees. After all this is taken care of the property and belongings are then divided amongst the beneficiaries; it can take years.

Things to consider listing in your living trust include your house and other properties, stocks, bonds and mutual funds, money market and brokerage accounts, art, jewelry, antiques and valuable collections. When it comes to a jointly-owned home many people don’t list these on the living trust because, should they die, the partner will then get the property. But, if you die at the same time, like in a car accident, the matter of who receives the house or property is up to the court system. It’s a good idea to list any and all real estate – no matter if you own it alone or with a partner – into the living trust.

Things that shouldn’t be placed in the living trust include personal checking accounts, property with a quick turnover (property you purchase to fix up and sell immediately, for instance), the family car (many insurance companies will not insure a vehicle owned by a trust), life insurance policies and interest or principal from another person’s trust.

It can be a little more challenging to understand all the laws concerning placing real estate into a living trust. Some states require a reassessment of the property first; others do not – if you are listed as a trustee. Some states impose taxes on living trust transfers; some states don’t. In most cases you do not need to change the registration of insurance policies for properties listed in the trust. You’ll still receive tax breaks should you sell the home even if the trust is the owner now. Federal law forbids lenders to from implementing “due on sale” laws for homes listed in the trust. You can find information pertinent to the state in which you live by reading more about trusts and real estate online.

A living trust requires you to name beneficiaries. There are three different types of beneficiaries: the primary beneficiaries who receives specified properties or belongings, alternate beneficiaries in cases where the primary beneficiaries have passed away, and residuary beneficiaries who receive everything not given to the primary or alternate beneficiaries.

You can name any beneficiaries you wish and you are not required to name your spouse as the beneficiary at all, if this is your wish. However, in states that recognize community property, your spouse could file a claim in court. The court will not invalidate the living trust but may revise it to include claims by the spouse. Read more online about community property and check to see if your state recognizes it. If so, you might be required to leave half of what you own to your spouse.

If you wish to leave your property to a minor child in the living trust you can do so. You may then appoint someone to guard over and manage the property until the child meets certain requirements. You can state the requirements, such as when the child turns 18, or when the child graduates from college. If you wish to leave one of your children completely out of the trust be specific in the details. If you aren’t, a court can later find that you “overlooked” the child, and make him or her one of your beneficiaries – even if you did not want this. If you wish to appoint a guardian for an underage child this isn’t done in the living trust document. Guardianship matters are handled through a last will and testament.

You don’t have to be married to create a living trust with your partner. It’s important that you discover whether your state recognizes community property or individual property. Most married couples, or even unmarried couples, become co-grantors and co-trustees for the living trust. They can still, however, choose their own beneficiaries separate from each other. If one spouse dies, his or her belongings are distributed to the beneficiaries, but the other spouse’s belongings stay with the trust, including anything given by the deceased spouse. When the second spouse dies the remainder of the trust is then distributed.

If you’re a smart planner you might want to consider the living trust. It can make owning and distributing property after your death much easier than a last will. It can also be much less expensive to have the living trust documents drawn up than a last will. You can, however, have both a living trust and a last will. Each is a separate thing entirely. You can read much more on this subject when you research it online.

Revocable Living Trusts Explained

As a type of estate planning tool, revocable living trusts (or RLT) have been utilized for quite a long time. In fact, they are the basis of most estate plans.

In general, this type of living trust is favored for many reasons: as revocable trusts, they can be changed over time; as tax incentives, they provide many benefits and avoid costly burdens; and, finally, they don’t have the limitations of irrevocable trusts.

This is the basic structure for how revocable trusts typically work:

  • Trust is established appointing the trustee(s).
  • Assets are placed within the purview of the trust.
  • All of the assets in the trust are retained in ownership by the grantor during his or her lifetime.
  • The trust can be altered or extinguished, unlike irrevocable trusts.

In addition, RLTs also provide much-needed privacy, while at the same steering clear of probate and potential family feuds (only with Steve Harvey to mediate).

Fundamentally, a revocable living trust makes sure that the appropriate money and other assets are received by the right beneficiary parties at the appropriate point in time.

What Assets Can Be Put into a Revocable Living Trust?

If you are considering a revocable living trust, it’s important to know what assets you can legally put into the trust, and the ones for which you will need to make other arrangements.

Generally speaking, the following is a list of what you’ll want to include in any RLT:

  • Real estate properties
  • Bank checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Investments (stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, etc.)
  • Businesses and business interests
  • Any notes payable

Benefits of Revocable Living Trusts

One might wonder, “What is the point of a revocable trust?” Well, as outlined above, revocable living trusts are a popular estate-planning instrument for a number of reasons.

They offer several distinct benefits that enable them to provide legal and financial support. Individuals can use revocable trusts in turn to protect, shield, and plan for their assets.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of benefits of a revocable living trust.

Avoid Probate

Probate is a legal process in which assets and properties are transferred upon death. A probate process entails the presentation of documents for a probate court and the resulting processes, the number of which is dependent upon the number of assets or properties in different US states.

Forming an RLT can shield your assets from the costly proceedings of probate court, as well as allow your property to get divided out to the appropriate beneficiaries more quickly.


A revocable living trust allows individuals to alter (also called making “amendments”) to the trust documents during their lifetime, and their own discretion. This is not the same as it would be for irrevocable living trusts, which can almost never be amended.

Privacy Protection

Additionally, a revocable living trust is a great option for wealthy individuals that want to keep personal records or other data about their property and assets private after their death.

Many people engage in an RLT to avoid the open-book probate process to which wills are often made subject. The probate court proceedings can indeed make an entity’s assets, and even the entire estate, quite public. This is because the documents presented to the court become a matter of public record, and, therefore, are available for anyone to access at any time.

Estate Protection

In many cases, a standard last will and testament can cause infighting amongst family members upon an individual’s death. Further, wills can be challenged by any family member for alteration.

To avoid this, many people prefer to protect their estate and the potential for disagreement and dispute after their death by establishing a revocable living trust. By utilizing an RLT, estate planners can disinherit specific individuals that issue challenges to their wishes. In other words, any challenger is immediately disinherited from receiving assets out of the trust.

Tax Shielding

Revocable living trusts may not always be ideal tax shelters on their own, they do offer the ability to create a credit shelter trust after someone’s death. Credit shelter trusts are incredibly effective estate planning vehicles that can help mitigate burdensome estate taxes for estates that will end up surpassing the exclusion amounts.

Asset Segregation

This particular tool is very helpful for married couples that have significant and separate property or assets that were acquired before they got married. RLTs do the job of keeping those assets separate (or “segregated”) from the married couple’s communal assets and properties.

Guardianship Control and Power of Attorney

A revocable living trust may also be utilized to enable the control of the spending habits of a guardian on behalf of children while they are minors.

Likewise, the RLT can specify and enable someone to act on, and make decisions for, an incapacitated individual’s behalf. If a person happens to become disabled or impaired, the revocable living trust has the ability to instantly appoint a specified trustee to manage the trust itself, as well as the individual’s financial affairs, without the need to receive durable power of attorney.

Generational Asset Growth and Management

Finally, RLTs have the unique benefit of enabling the assets and wealth that someone has accumulated during their lifetime to continue growing across several generations, simply by utilizing a professional trustee to manage the assets and property.

Individuals can also set a limit on the type of withdrawals (income only, for example), or even specify special emergency provisions.

Revocable Living Trust — Frequently Asked Questions

Who are revocable living trusts best for? Revocable living trusts are best suited for individuals with considerable wealth that want to set up specific parameters around their estate and shield it from difficulty after their death. It has the distinct advantage over irrevocable living trusts in that it is both alterable and extinguishable.

Is there a difference between a revocable trust and revocable living trust? No, these are terms that refer to the same legal process. A revocable trust and a revocable living trust are identical. They are simply different phrases for the same thing. In fact, the phrase “living trust” can be added to this list as well. It also has the same definition as the other two.

How do you create a revocable living trust? Is it difficult? As with any trust, the agreement itself will typically be drafted by an attorney and will detail precisely which assets are included in the trust, and how those assets will be overseen. With the right lawyer, this is not a “difficult” process; it does, however, require estate planning, which in turn requires attention to details that will likely outlive the individual in question. Finally, revocable living trusts require the money needed to hire an attorney and file the necessary paperwork.