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By: Scott Grossman on November 7th, 2023

Who Owns the Property in a Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable trust is a legal arrangement where an individual, known as the grantor or settlor, transfers their assets to a trust, which a trustee manages. The grantor retains control and ownership of the assets during their lifetime, with the ability to make changes or revoke the trust at any time. However, upon the grantor’s passing, the trust becomes irrevocable. Then the assets are distributed to the designated beneficiaries.

Revocable Trust Ownership with Trust Property

When determining property ownership within a revocable trust, it is essential to understand the roles of the grantor, trustee, and beneficiaries.

Grantor: The grantor is the individual who establishes the revocable trust and transfers their assets into it. The grantor retains ownership of the assets during their lifetime and can make changes or dissolve the trust if desired.

Trustee: The trustee is responsible for managing and administering the assets held within the revocable trust. The grantor may appoint themselves as the initial trustee, granting them complete asset control. However, it is common for grantors to appoint a successor trustee to handle the trust’s affairs if they become incapacitated or pass away.

Beneficiaries: The beneficiaries are the individuals or entities designated to receive the assets held within the revocable trust upon the grantor’s passing. They have a vested interest in the trust and will eventually become the owners of the assets.

While ownership of the assets technically remains with the grantor during their lifetime, the revocable trust acts as a separate legal entity that holds and manages the assets on behalf of the grantor. This arrangement provides various benefits, such as avoiding probate, maintaining privacy, and allowing for efficient asset management.

Managing Trust Property within a Revocable Trust

When managing Trust property within a revocable trust, it is crucial to understand the different scenarios that may arise.

Grantor as Trustee

If the grantor serves as the trustee of the revocable trust, they retain complete control over the assets held within the trust. The grantor is the person who creates and funds the trust. They can also act as the trustee. That, however, is not always the case, and it’s not required. As the trustee, they have the authority to buy, sell, or transfer trust property as they see fit. The grantor can change the trust terms, including adding or removing assets from the revocable trust.

In this scenario, the grantor continues to enjoy the benefits and use of the property within the revocable trust. They can collect income, live in a home held within the trust, or use any other assets as they were still personally owned. The trust serves as a legal container for these assets, offering protection and clear guidelines for their management.

Successor Trustee

If the grantor becomes incapacitated or passes away, the successor trustee manages the revocable trust and its assets. The successor trustee is typically appointed by the grantor. And control the trust according to the terms.

The successor trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the trust’s beneficiaries. They are responsible for managing the assets, paying any necessary expenses, and distributing the trust property following the grantor’s wishes outlined in the trust document.

It is important to note that the successor trustee does not become the new owner of the assets. Their role is to manage the assets on behalf of the beneficiaries until the trust is entirely administered and the assets are distributed.

Modifying or Terminating a Revocable Trust

One of the significant advantages of a revocable trust is the grantor’s ability to make changes or terminate the trust during their lifetime. This flexibility provides peace of mind, knowing the trust can adapt to changing circumstances or desires.

If the grantor wishes to modify the revocable trust, they can amend the trust document. That allows for changes in the trust terms, such as adding or removing beneficiaries, altering distribution instructions, or updating asset allocations.

If the grantor no longer wishes to maintain the trust, they can terminate it. That may involve transferring the trust property back into their name or distributing the assets directly to the beneficiaries outside of the trust structure.

Is a Revocable Trust right for you?

A revocable trust offers a flexible and efficient way for individuals to manage their assets during their lifetime and provide for the smooth transition of property upon their passing. The grantor maintains ownership and control over the assets while benefiting from the protection and administration provided by the trust structure. 

Understanding the roles of the grantor, trustee, and beneficiaries is essential in determining ownership within a revocable trust. Whether the grantor serves as the trustee or designates a successor trustee, the trust remains a separate legal entity that holds and manages the assets for the ultimate benefit of the beneficiaries.

More on your Trustee breaching their fiduciary duties

If 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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