What Are The Advantages of a Revocable Living Trust?

revocable living trust document graphic showing the advantages that it avoids probate, maintains privacy, offers greater control over gift distributions, and avoids guardianship

When drafted and funded correctly, a revocable living trust delivers a number of advantages over a traditional last will:

  • Avoids or minimizes probate and associated costs
  • Maintains privacy of the estate plan
  • Offers greater opportunity to control gift distributions
  • Avoids guardianship during lifetime of the person making the trust

If you are interested in capturing one or more of these advantages, a revocable living trust may be the best choice for you.

Avoids probate

Probate is a court-supervised process for gathering a deceased person’s assets, paying outstanding debts, taxes, and expenses, and distributing the remaining assets to the deceased person’s beneficiaries. Certain types of non-titled and other assets are said to be “probate assets” if the only way to identify the beneficiary is through reviewing the last will as part of the probate process. Probate assets include real estate, checking or savings accounts without a transfer on death or payable on death record, as well as motor vehicles and other personal property that are not funded into a trust.

Revocable living trusts avoid probate. By transferring ownership of assets to the revocable living trust in what is known as “funding the trust,” you effectively convert a probate asset so that upon death it transfers by beneficiary designation within the trust. This helps make the asset transfers more efficient and less costly.

In many cases, avoiding probate is desirable because probate is often expensive, time consuming, and makes the estate public record.

Maintains privacy

The probate process makes the details of the estate a public record. This may be undesirable for individuals who prefer to keep their financial matters or distributions on death private.

Since revocable living trusts avoid probate, they tend to maintain privacy better than last wills.

Greater Control Over Gift Distributions

With a revocable living trust, you have the option to make distributions outright or keep your assets “in trust” to distribute to beneficiaries on the completion of various milestones or on an as-needed basis. For example, you could specify that a person should receive distributions after reaching a certain age, upon graduating from college, or if they continue to maintain full-time employment. You could also specify that funds be used only for specific purposes like higher education, medical expenses, or maintaining a certain standard of living.

Your ability to set parameters around distributions in a revocable living trust is only limited by your imagination. However, the more complex you make these parameters, chances are that your trust will remain active for longer and your administration costs will be more expensive, ultimately leaving your beneficiaries with less.

Avoids Guardianship During Lifetime of Settlor

If you become incapacitated or unable to manage your own affairs, the court may appoint a guardian to care for and manage your person or property through a guardianship proceeding.

A properly drafted and funded revocable living trust avoids guardianship. Since your assets are already owned by the trust, your co-trustee or successor trustee is able to take over management of the trust without any further action or requirement.

This contingency is desirable because guardianship proceedings are often contentious, expensive, and may result in a government-appointed official or other undesirable person taking custody of your property and paying themselves compensation at your expense.

Summary

Revocable living trusts deliver four clear advantages over last wills. They avoid probate, maintain privacy, offer greater control over distributions, and avoid guardianship. Depending on how you value these advantages against the slightly higher cost to create and maintain a revocable living trust, you may decide that a revocable living trust is the best estate planning vehicle for you.

When you’re ready, Just In Case Estates has everything that you need to start and complete your revocable living trust today.