What is Living Revocable Trust? Definition, Set up & Pros and Cons

Estate planning has become an important component of financial management in today’s environment.

A Living Revocable Trust is a strong instrument that individuals may use to preserve their assets and ensure smooth asset transfer.

In this article, we will go over the basics of Living revocable trusts, their advantages and how they may help you safeguard your legacy.

What is Living Revocable Trusts?

A living revocable trust is a legal arrangement where a person (grantor) transfers their assets into a trust during their lifetime.

The grantor can modify or revoke the trust while they are alive. It allows for asset management, avoiding probate and providing for the management of assets in case of incapacity.

How a Living Revocable Trust works?

A Living Revocable Trust is a legal arrangement in which a person, known as the Settlor or Grantor, transfers their assets into a trust during their lifetime.

The Settlor retains full control over the trust and can modify or revoke it at any time.

Key parties involved in a Living Revocable Trust:

  1. Settlor/Grantor – The individual who establishes the trust and transfers their assets into it.
  2. Trustee(s) – The person(s) or institution responsible for managing the trust and its assets according to the Settlor’s instructions.
  3. Beneficiaries – The individuals or organizations who will receive the trust assets either during the Settlor’s lifetime or upon their death.

Who needs a Revocable Trust?

A revocable trust is a flexible estate planning tool that can benefit various individuals.

People who have substantial assets, a complex financial situation or specific wishes for the distribution of their assets upon their death may find a revocable trust advantageous.

It can provide privacy, avoid probate and allow for efficient asset management during one’s lifetime and after death.

Additionally, individuals with minor children or dependents, blended families or concerns about incapacity may also benefit from a revocable trust.

Setting Up a Living Revocable Trust

Here are the steps to set up a living revocable trust:

Step 1: Selecting a Trustee

Choosing a trustworthy and capable trustee is crucial. Consider appointing a family member, friend or professional trustee who understands your wishes and will fulfill their fiduciary duties.

Step 2: Identifying and Listing Trust Assets:

Compile a comprehensive list of your assets including bank accounts, real estate, investments and personal property, that you intend to transfer into the trust.

Step 3: Drafting the Trust Agreement

Engage an experienced estate planning attorney to help draft the trust agreement, which outlines the terms, provisions and distribution instructions for the trust.

Step 4: Transferring Assets into the Trust

Follow the legal requirements to transfer the ownership of assets into the trust. This may involve changing titles, deeds or beneficiary designations.

Step 5: Considerations for Funding the Trust

Determine how much of the trust you wish to finance over your lifetime. You have the option of transferring assets instantly or gradually over time.

Managing a Living Revocable Trust

Responsibilities of the Trustee – The trustee is responsible for managing the trust assets, making investment choices, distributing income or capital in accordance with the conditions of the trust agreement and keeping accurate records.

Retaining Control and Flexibility with a Revocable Trust – Living Revocable Trusts allow you to retain control over the trust assets, change beneficiaries, amend the trust agreement or even revoke the trust entirely.

Making Amendments or Revisions to the Trust – Life circumstances may change, necessitating modifications to the trust. Consult with your attorney to understand the legal process for making amendments or revisions.

Keeping the Trust Current and Up to Date – Regularly review your trust to ensure it reflects your current wishes, accounts for new assets and accommodates any changes in personal or financial circumstances.

Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust

A Revocable Living Trust (RLT) offers several benefits for individuals or families looking to manage their assets and provide for their loved ones. Here are some key advantages of having a Revocable Living Trust:

  1. Probate avoidance – One of the primary advantages of an RLT is the ability to avoid or minimize probate. Probate is a court-supervised process of administering a deceased person’s estate. By placing assets in a living trust, they can pass directly to the beneficiaries without going through probate. This can save time, money, and maintain privacy.
  2. Privacy – Unlike a will, which becomes a matter of public record during probate, a Revocable Living Trust provides a higher level of privacy. The details of the trust and the distribution of assets can remain confidential, as the trust administration occurs outside of the probate process.
  3. Flexibility and control – With an RLT, you retain full control over your assets during your lifetime. You can make changes, add or remove assets or even revoke the trust if needed. You have the flexibility to modify the trust terms as your circumstances or wishes change.
  4. Incapacity planning – A living trust allows you to plan for the possibility of incapacity. If you become mentally or physically incapacitated, the successor trustee you named can step in and manage the trust assets on your behalf, avoiding the need for a court-appointed conservatorship or guardianship.
  5. Efficient estate administration – Upon your death, the successor trustee can distribute assets according to your instructions, avoiding the need for probate. This can streamline the estate settlement process, ensuring a more efficient transfer of assets to your beneficiaries.
  6. Potential cost savings – While the upfront costs of setting up a Revocable Living Trust may be higher than creating a simple will, it can potentially save money in the long run. By avoiding probate and potential legal challenges, the overall costs of estate administration may be reduced.
  7. Continuity of management – If you own complex assets or a business, a living trust can provide a seamless transition of management. The successor trustee can step in immediately, ensuring the continuity of operations without disruptions.

Revoking or Amending a Living Revocable Trust

Throughout your life, circumstances may change, leading you to reconsider the terms of your Living Revocable Trust.

Common reasons for revoking or amending the trust include:

  • changes in family dynamics,
  • acquisition or sale of significant assets and
  • changes in your personal goals and wishes.

As the Settlor, you have the power to modify or revoke the trust at any time.

To make changes to a Living Revocable Trust, consult with your estate planning attorney. They will guide you through the process of preparing and executing appropriate legal documents such as an amendment or restatement of the trust.

Revoking a Living Revocable Trust typically requires a formal written revocation document.

Living revocable trust form

Click Here to fill the living revocable trust form.

Living revocable trust Pros and Cons

Avoids probateRequires initial setup and funding
Maintains privacyPotential cost of professional assistance
Allows for flexibilityNot effective for asset protection
Provides for incapacityDoes not offer tax advantages
Facilitates smooth asset transferAssets still subject to creditor claims
Can be amended or revokedMay not be recognized in certain jurisdictions
Offers potential for tax planningRequires diligent asset management
Reduces the likelihood of will contestsPotential for disputes among beneficiaries

Living revocable trust Vs Will

Living Revocable TrustWill
DefinitionA legal arrangement where a person (grantor/settlor) places their assets into a trust during their lifetime, which can be modified or revoked.A legal document that specifies how a person’s assets and estate will be distributed after their death.
Control and FlexibilityProvides control and flexibility to the grantor during their lifetime. The grantor can modify or revoke the trust, add or remove assets, and change beneficiaries as needed.Provides limited control during the person’s lifetime. It becomes effective only after death and cannot be modified or revoked.
Avoidance of ProbateAssets placed in the trust can avoid probate, which can save time and costs associated with the probate process.Assets distributed through a will typically go through probate, which can be time-consuming and costly.
PrivacyOffers privacy since the trust document is not typically made public, and the distribution of assets can remain confidential.The probate process is a matter of public record, which means the distribution of assets becomes public knowledge.
Incapacity PlanningAllows for incapacity planning by appointing a successor trustee who can manage the trust’s assets if the grantor becomes incapacitated.Does not provide incapacity planning provisions. Other legal documents like power of attorney and living will are needed for incapacity planning.
Immediate EffectThe trust can provide immediate management and distribution of assets in the event of the grantor’s incapacity or death, avoiding delays associated with probate.The will takes effect only after death, following the probate process, which can lead to delays in asset distribution.
Asset ProtectionCan provide certain asset protection benefits, such as shielding assets from creditors or ensuring the assets are used for the intended beneficiaries.Does not provide asset protection benefits since the assets are subject to probate and may be exposed to creditor claims.
ComplexityCan be more complex to set up and manage compared to a will. It may require assistance from an attorney and involve ongoing administration.Relatively simpler to create and manage. However, more complex estate planning needs may still require legal assistance.
CostCan be more expensive to set up initially due to legal fees and potentially ongoing administrative costs.Typically less expensive to create and manage compared to a living trust. Legal fees are usually incurred during the probate process.
Suitable ForPeople who want more control over their assets during their lifetime, wish to avoid probate, or have complex estate planning needs.Individuals with smaller estates, simple estate planning needs, and no immediate concerns about incapacity planning or asset protection.

Types of Trusts Chart

Trust TypeDescription
Revocable Living TrustA trust created during the grantor’s lifetime that can be modified or revoked.
Irrevocable Living TrustA trust created during the grantor’s lifetime that cannot be modified or revoked without beneficiary consent.
Testamentary TrustA trust created through a will and becomes effective upon the grantor’s death.
Charitable TrustA trust established to benefit charitable organizations or purposes.
Special Needs TrustA trust created to provide for the needs of a person with disabilities without affecting their eligibility for government benefits.
Spendthrift TrustA trust designed to protect the assets from creditors or irresponsible spending by beneficiaries.
Constructive TrustA trust imposed by a court to remedy unjust enrichment or prevent wrongdoing.
Totten TrustA trust created by depositing funds into a bank or financial institution with instructions for distribution upon the depositor’s death.
Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT)A trust used to transfer a personal residence to beneficiaries while retaining the right to live in the property for a specified term.
Family TrustA trust established to manage and distribute assets for the benefit of family members.

FAQs related to Living Revocable Trust

What is a Living Revocable Trust?

A Living Revocable Trust is a legal document that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets into a trust during your lifetime. You remain in control of the trust and can make changes or revoke it as desired.

Why would I need a Living Revocable Trust?

A Living Revocable Trust offers several benefits, including avoiding probate, maintaining privacy, providing for incapacity and controlling the distribution of your assets after your death.

How does a Living Revocable Trust avoid probate?

When you transfer your assets into a Living Revocable Trust, they are no longer considered part of your individual estate. As a result, they bypass the probate process, saving time, costs and maintaining privacy.

Can I make changes to a Living Revocable Trust?

Yes, one of the main advantages of a Living Revocable Trust is that it can be modified or revoked at any time during your lifetime. You can add or remove assets, change beneficiaries or make other amendments as necessary.

Who should be named as the trustee of a Living Revocable Trust?

Typically, the person creating the trust (known as the grantor or settlor) serves as the initial trustee. You can also name a successor trustee to manage the trust in the event of your incapacity or death.

Do I still need a will if I have a Living Revocable Trust?

While a Living Revocable Trust is an essential part of an estate plan, it is generally recommended to have a will as well. A will can be used to address any assets that were not transferred into the trust or to name guardians for minor children.

What happens to the assets in a Living Revocable Trust after the grantor’s death?

Upon the grantor’s death, the successor trustee takes over the management of the trust. They will distribute the assets according to the grantor’s instructions, which can include providing for beneficiaries, charities and other designated individuals or organizations.

Are there any downsides to having a Living Revocable Trust?

Living Revocable Trusts offer many benefits, but they also require time and effort to set up and maintain. Additionally, they may not provide the same level of asset protection as certain other estate planning tools.

Can a Living Revocable Trust help with incapacity planning?

Yes, a Living Revocable Trust can be structured to provide for the management of your assets if you become incapacitated. The successor trustee can step in and handle your affairs without the need for court intervention.

Do I need an attorney to create a Living Revocable Trust?

While it is possible to create a Living Revocable Trust without an attorney, it is generally recommended to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney. They can ensure the trust is properly drafted and executed according to your specific needs and state laws.


A Living Revocable Trust is a versatile estate planning tool that provides numerous benefits, including probate avoidance, privacy protection and seamless asset transfer.

By understanding the mechanics of a Living Revocable Trust and working closely with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can create a customized plan that ensures your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes.

Remember, estate planning is a dynamic process and it is essential to review and update your Living Revocable Trust periodically to reflect changes in your life and goals.

You may enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your assets are safeguarded, your loved ones are catered for, and your legacy is maintained by taking the required measures to form and manage a Living Revocable Trust.

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