If you’re hoping to create a flexible estate plan for every stage of life, you may find that a revocable living trust meets your needs. These popular estate planning tools cover the three phases of life — your lifetime, your possible disability due to injury or illness, and your death.
What Is a Revocable Living Trust?
A revocable living trust — also known simply as a living trust — is a written legal document. The trust document names the trustee who will manage the property if you are incapacitated or you pass away. It also spells out who receives the property when the initiator of the trust passes away.
The purpose of a living trust is to hold assets belonging to an individual. If you create a living trust, you’re known as the trustmaker, settlor or grantor. You normally also serve as the trustee, who controls and manages the included assets.
Your living trust is “revocable” because you can alter it if your needs or life circumstances should change. The trust is referred to as “living” because you create it during your lifetime. If you function as the trustee, a successor trustee will take over managing the trust in the event of your incapacity or death.
Revocable Trusts Pros and Cons
Revocable living trusts offer some significant advantages, but they’re not for everyone. What are the primary pros and cons?
- Pro: Your heirs may receive assets sooner. For many individuals, revocable living trusts are a means of avoiding probate — the lengthy, and often costly, process of legally settling your estate after you die. With a revocable living trust, your property can be passed on to your beneficiaries without going through the probate process. You can also decide when they receive the assets.
- Con: You’ll still need a will. Even if you create a revocable living trust, you’ll still need a will. In addition to providing guidance on the dispensation of your estate for assets that are not in your trust, a properly written will is vital for designating guardians for your minor children, which a revocable living trust does not do. Often a “pourover” will is used which will place the assets into your trust.
- Con: Property must be titled correctly. After creating your revocable living trust, you’ll need to transfer property you want covered into the trust. Property to which you hold title — such as real estate — must have a new title issued in the trust’s name. Work with an experienced attorney to ensure that the title change meets all regulations and does not land the property in probate.
- Pro: Your heirs may have more privacy. Revocable living trusts are not in the public record, since they don’t go through probate. Your trust beneficiaries immediately receive a copy of the trust upon your death. If you’ve cut any beneficiaries out of the trust, the possibility exists that the information could become public if the trust is contested after your death. However, short of a court battle, living trusts typically are more private than wills because they generally are not available to the public.
Work With an Estate Planning Attorney for Your Living Trust
After reviewing revocable trusts pros and cons, does a living trust sound like a possible solution for your estate planning needs? To consult with an estate planning attorney about your specific situation, please contact Gold & Associates, P.C.