How a Revocable Living Trust Works

A revocable living trust is a trust that you create to hold your property while you are alive and to distribute it among your beneficiaries on your death.  The three main reasons for using a living trust (rather than a will) as the central feature of your estate plan are to (1) avoid probate, (2) provide for property management, especially if you become incapacitated, and (3) keep your estate plan private.

The typical living trust document:

Names you as the trustee with the power to manage and access trust assets as you deem necessary. So long as you are mentally competent, you will have control over the trust assets, just as though the trust did not exist.

Names a successor trustee to take over management of the trust property for your benefit on your incapacity and to turn the trust property over to the beneficiaries after your death.

Names the beneficiaries who are to receive the trust property on your death and specifies what specific assets or shares of the trust property they get.

Provides that you can revoke or amend the trust at any time until your death, at which time the trust becomes irrevocable.

To complete the creation of the trust, you must transfer your property into it.

With a properly drafted and funded living trust, your estate will not need to go through probate.

If no assets are in your name when you die, no probate will be needed to transfer title to your heirs.  Even if some probate assets have not been transferred into the trust, your estate may qualify for simplified probate procedures available for small estates.


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