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By: Scott Grossman on November 8th, 2023

What is a Living Trust?

A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, is a legal document that allows individuals to transfer their assets into a trust during their lifetime. This process involves several steps to ensure the trust is properly created and maintained.

The first step in the living trust process is to determine what assets will be included in the trust. That may include real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings. Once the assets have been identified, the next step is to create the trust document.

A living trust document is a legal contract that outlines how the assets will be managed and distributed. It names a trustee who will be responsible for carrying out the terms of the trust. The trust document also designates beneficiaries who will receive the assets when the grantor dies.

After the trust document has been created, it must be signed and notarized. The grantor, or the person creating the trust, must sign in the presence of a notary public to ensure its legality. Once the trust document is signed, assets can be transferred into the trust. 

To transfer assets into a revocable trust, the grantor must change the title of ownership from their name to the name of the faith. This process may involve updating bank account information, changing property deeds, and re-registering investments.

Once the assets have been transferred into the trust, they are now owned by the trust, not the individual. The trustee manages and distributes the assets according to the trust document’s terms. That includes making investment decisions, paying bills, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Suppose the grantor becomes incapacitated or unable to manage their affairs. In that case, the revocable  trust allows for a seamless management transition. The trustee can handle the grantor’s financial matters without court intervention.

Living Trust Advantages

There are several advantages to creating a living trust for estate planning purposes. A living trust offers flexibility, privacy, and control over assets. It also allows for the seamless transfer of assets upon the grantor’s death.

One of the main advantages of a living trust is that it allows individuals to retain control over their assets while alive. Unlike a will, which only goes into effect after death, a living trust manages assets during the grantor’s lifetime. That provides peace of mind and ensures the grantor’s wishes are fulfilled.

Another advantage of a living trust is that it can help avoid the probate process. Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate, which can be time-consuming and expensive. By transferring assets into a trust, they are not subject to probate, which allows for a faster and more efficient distribution of assets.

Privacy is also an advantage of a living trust. When a will goes through probate, it becomes a matter of public record. That means anyone can access information about the deceased person’s assets and beneficiaries. In contrast, a living trust is a private document and does not become part of the public record.

Additionally, a living trust can provide asset protection. Assets held in a trust are protected from creditors and can be better shielded from potential lawsuits. That can benefit individuals with significant wealth or working in high-liability professions.

Lastly, a living trust allows for the seamless transfer of assets upon the grantor’s death. The trust document outlines how and when assets should be distributed to beneficiaries. That eliminates the need for court intervention and can help prevent family disputes over inheritances.

Benefits of Creating a Revocable Trust

A revocable trust offers several key benefits for individuals planning their estate. These benefits include avoiding probate, protecting privacy, maintaining control, reducing taxes, and ensuring a smooth transfer of assets.

One of the primary benefits of a revocable trust is the ability to avoid probate. Unlike a will, which must go through the probate process, assets held in a living trust are typically not subject to probate. That means the assets can be distributed to beneficiaries more quickly and without court oversight.

Privacy is another advantage of a living trust. When a will goes through probate, it becomes a matter of public record. That means anyone can access information about the deceased person’s assets and beneficiaries. Individuals can keep their financial affairs private and confidential by utilizing a living trust.

Creating a living trust also allows individuals to maintain control over their assets. While the grantor is alive and well, they can continue to manage and make decisions regarding the assets held in the trust. That provides security and ensures the grantor’s wishes are followed.

In terms of taxes, a living trust may help reduce estate taxes for individuals with a large estate. Properly structuring the trust may minimize estate taxes and save beneficiaries from paying unnecessary taxes.

Finally, a living trust ensures a smooth transfer of assets to the beneficiaries. The trust document clearly outlines how and when the assets should be distributed, eliminating uncertainty and potential family disputes. That can provide peace of mind and help maintain harmonious relationships among loved ones.

Revocable Trust Cost

The cost of creating a revocable trust can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the estate and the involvement of professionals. Individuals must consider the upfront and ongoing costs associated with a living trust.

Individuals may work with an attorney or use an online service when creating a living trust. The cost of hiring an attorney can vary depending on their experience, location, and the specific needs of the individual. On average, the cost of creating a living trust with an attorney can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

In addition to the attorney’s fees, individuals should consider other costs associated with creating a living trust. That may include notary fees, document preparation fees, and any fees associated with transferring assets into the trust. These costs can vary depending on the individual’s location and the complexity of their assets.

Once the living trust is created, there may also be ongoing costs to consider. These may include trustee fees, which are paid to the individual or institution responsible for managing the trust. Additionally, there may be costs associated with updating the trust document, such as if the individual wants to make changes or add additional assets.

While creating and maintaining a revocable trust may seem significant, weighing these costs against the potential benefits is essential. A living trust can help individuals avoid the time-consuming and expensive probate process, protect their privacy, and ensure a smooth transfer of assets. For many individuals, the peace of mind and financial protection of a living trust outweigh the associated costs.

Living Trust Documents

Creating a revocable trust requires several essential documents to ensure that the trust is established correctly and maintained. These documents include the trust agreement, pour-over will, and any additional documents necessary to transfer assets into the trust.

The trust agreement is the primary document that creates the living trust. It outlines critical details such as the grantor’s wishes for asset distribution, the trustee’s name, and the beneficiaries’ names. The trust agreement is a legally binding contract. It should be drafted or reviewed by an attorney to ensure its validity.

In addition to the trust agreement, individuals may also create a pour-over will. This type of will is used with a revocable trust and ensures that any assets not included at the time of the grantor’s death are “poured over” into the trust. That helps avoid the need for separate probate proceedings on those assets.

Depending on the individual’s assets and estate plan, additional documents may be needed to transfer assets into the trust. That can include deeds for real estate, paperwork for financial accounts, and other relevant documentation. These documents should be updated to reflect the trust as the owner of the assets.

Individuals must keep these living trust documents in a safe and easily accessible location. The trustee and beneficiaries should have access to the documents, and it is recommended to inform them of their location and provide instructions on how to access them in the event of the grantor’s incapacitation or death.

Is your Trustee Breaching their FIduciary Duties?

Suppose you would still like more information on Trust Litigation. Or, removing a Trustee, check out our complete Overview of California Trust Litigation, available on our website. And if you have more questions about your rights as a Beneficiary and what you should know moving forward.

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