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Living Revocable Trusts

A Revocable Trust is a written document that partially substitutes for a will. It is established during your lifetime and can be amended or revoked at any time before death. Revocable Trusts are a common and excellent way to avoid the cost and hassle of probate because the property held in a Revocable Trust during life passes directly to the trust beneficiaries after the trust maker's death without probate court proceedings. With a Revocable Trust, your assets (your home, bank accounts and stocks, for example) are put into the Revocable Trust and administered for your benefit during your lifetime. Upon your death, the successor trustee (the person you appoint to handle the Revocable Trust after your death) transfers ownership to the beneficiaries named in the trust. Your successor trustee serves a very important role and has significant responsibilities. You should choose you successor trustee carefully.

Certain Revocable Trusts contain provisions to reduce or eliminate federal estate tax. Revocable Trusts are also referred to as "Living Trusts" or "Inter Vivos Trusts."

Most people name themselves as the trustee in charge of managing their Revocable Trust's assets. This way, even though your assets have been put into the Revocable Trust, you remain in control of your assets during your lifetime. You will also name a successor trustee (a person or an institution) who will manage the Revocable Trust's assets if you ever become unable or unwilling to do so yourself and who will also manage and distribute the Revocable Trust assets after your death.

The terms of the Revocable Trust will:

  • Give the trustee the legal right to manage and control the assets held in your Revocable Trust.
  • Instruct the trustee to manage the Revocable Trust's assets for your benefit during your lifetime.
  • Name the beneficiaries (persons or charitable organizations) who are to receive your Revocable Trust's assets when you die.
  • Give guidance and certain powers and authority to the trustee to manage and distribute your Revocable Trust's assets. The trustee is a fiduciary, which means he or she holds a position of trust and confidence and is subject to strict responsibilities and very high standards. For example, the trustee cannot use your Revocable Trust's assets for his or her own personal use or benefit without your explicit permission. Instead, the trustee must hold and use Revocable Trust assets solely for the benefit of the trust's beneficiaries.
  • Provide for a deferred distribution on a minor's share of the assets of the Revocable Trust so that they do not receive all of their share of the assets upon their 18th birthday.

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