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  • Nick Burgess

What Is a Living Trust, and Do You Need One?

The following article is for entertainment and educational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. Please contact a licensed financial professional for individual advice. Some links below may be affiliate links that generate a small commission for the site at no extra cost to you.


What Is a Living Trust, and Do You Need One?

The complex world of estate planning can seem like a daunting venture for many. If you're asking yourself, "What is a living trust?" then this article is the perfect place to start. You may have heard terms such as "probate process," "legal document," or "irrevocable trust," but understanding how these concepts apply to you can be a challenge. As a personal finance blogger with years of experience, my goal is to simplify these concepts and make them relatable to you.

What Is a Living Trust?

Firstly, let's define a living trust. Simply put, it is a legal document created during the creator or settlor of the trust's lifetime, hence also referred to as an inter vivos trust. It is a type of trust that holds ownership of your assets, like real estate, bank accounts, personal property, and even retirement accounts, while you're still alive but passes these assets to your designated beneficiaries upon your death.

One of the main benefits of a living trust is that it avoids the often time-consuming and costly probate process that a simple will must go through. Probate court proceedings can take a lot of time and involve court costs that can eat into the estate's value. A living trust, on the other hand, allows the immediate transfer of assets after death, bypassing the probate proceedings and keeping the terms of the trust away from public record. This is particularly beneficial for those with privacy concerns.

Types of Trusts: Revocable and Irrevocable

There are two main types of trusts: the living revocable trust and the irrevocable living trust. The primary difference lies in the level of control of the trust. In a living revocable trust, the creator of the trust maintains complete control over the trust's assets during their lifetime and can alter the trust terms at any point. On the other hand, an irrevocable trust, once established, cannot be changed without the permission of the beneficiary of the trust. It effectively becomes a separate legal entity.

A successor trustee plays an important role in both types of trusts. They take control of the trust property upon the settlor's death or incapacitation, distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as per the trust terms.

The choice between these trusts is influenced by individual circumstances and specific needs. An irrevocable trust can provide greater asset protection from creditors and minimize estate taxes, making it a great way for complex estates. However, if retaining complete control over your assets and flexibility is a priority, a revocable trust is a good idea.

It's always a good idea to seek legal advice before creating a trust. Experienced estate planning attorneys can provide a free consultation to evaluate your particular situation and advise on the best way to proceed. State laws can significantly impact estate planning, so Texas law will guide Texas estate planning decisions, and the same applies to other states. For instance, in Fort Worth, you can find legal counsel with extensive experience in Texas estate planning tool creation.

Special Types of Trusts

Trusts can also address specific situations. A common example is a special needs trust for the benefit of minor children or adults with disabilities. Charitable trusts, as the name suggests, are designed to provide for charities and come with certain tax advantages.

Living trusts can also include specific legal arrangements, such as powers of attorney, ensuring financial security for the surviving spouse or other family members. This estate planning tool can also address life insurance policies, ensuring that they are handled in the most tax-efficient manner possible.

A living trust can be established with the help of an attorney or through an online service. In either case, you must be of sound mind when setting up the trust, and it must be properly signed and witnessed. Keep in mind that financial institutions will need specific documentation to recognize the trust as a legal entity, especially if the trust owns real property.

In the long run, establishing a living trust could offer peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be respected without the burden of the probate process on your family. While it may seem complex, social media platforms and online resources are useful tools to understand the process and benefit of a trust. It's a good idea to speak to a financial advisor or legal counsel with knowledge of estate taxes, federal estate tax, and other legal processes related to trusts.


In summary, whether you're considering a testamentary trust, an irrevocable trust, or a living revocable trust, trusts play an integral part in estate planning. They serve as a way to ensure financial security for your loved ones, offer privacy, and can help avoid the probate process.

While the legal title and control over the trust's assets change depending on the trust's name and type, the goal remains the same - ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. This peace of mind can be an invaluable asset, so taking the time to understand these legal entities and make the right choice is worth it. Remember, even though the process may seem overwhelming, you don't have to do it alone. There are professionals available with the expertise to guide you through the process and help tailor a solution to your individual needs.


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