Can a Revocable Living Trust Substitute for a Will?

Filed under: Estate Planning

Most people wish to avoid subjecting their heirs to the complicated probate process after their death. The court process can drag on for months, preventing your beneficiaries from accessing much-needed funds, and causing undue hardship and emotional stress during an already difficult time.

With the above in mind you probably also want to maintain control of your assets during your lifetime. In these cases, a revocable living trust can often provide the solution to your estate planning dilemma.

When you place assets into a trust, it allows you to transfer them to your heirs while bypassing the probate process. Then, by naming yourself as trustee, you maintain control of the assets until you die or become unable to manage the trust. During your lifetime, you can revoke or make any changes to the trust that you wish.

Most people also choose to designate a successor trustee. In the event that you are incapacitated by illness or injury, this person can make decisions about the trust for you. In this way, a living trust serves to preserve your financial assets during the times you most need protection.

A revocable living trust is a valuable tool, but establishing a trust does not mean you shouldn’t also draft a will with your estate planning attorney. A trust serves only to easily transfer assets owned by the trust to your heirs while bypassing the probate process. But it may not necessarily transfer all of your assets – only the ones covered by the trust. For example, retirement accounts and life insurance will pass to named beneficiaries per the designation you make under the policy or account. A properly drafted estate plan will ensure that personal possessions like furniture and jewelry are owned by the trust. If personal possessions are not properly included as an asset owned by the trust, you will still need to utilize a will in order to bequeath those items to your heirs.

Further, if you have minor children then you still need a will. But if you have established a revocable living trust with your estate planning attorney, you can rest assured that any assets properly owned by the trust will indeed be swiftly transferred to your heirs.

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