When my dad passed away a few years ago, one thing my mom didn’t have to worry about was finances. It wasn’t because my parents had loads of money, but because they had set up a revocable living trust years earlier.
There are many benefits to a revocable living trust over a will, but perhaps the biggest one is that the trust avoids probate (the validation process).
When an estate goes through probate, it can take a long time and can be expensive, especially if anything is contested.
Your heirs could end up paying as much as 5% of your estate in court fees if it goes through probate. And it could take months or longer before the court honors your wishes.
A revocable living trust bypasses probate.
When you set up the trust, all of the assets go into it, but you (and anyone else you designate, such as a spouse) are the beneficiaries. The trustees – typically you and a spouse – manage the trust, so it’s your money.
When you pass away, a designated trustee (again, it could be a spouse) takes over management.
Because this is a revocable trust, you can change it as circumstances evolve.
Another important benefit to a revocable living trust is privacy. A will that goes through probate is a matter of public record. Anyone can see what you owned and who got what.
Don’t want your nosy brother-in-law to know all of your business? Use a revocable trust.
Revocable living trusts are also harder to challenge because you are not only designating who inherits your assets but also funding the trust.
Assets need to be retitled to go into the trust. If you are adding your real estate, bank accounts and other assets to the trust, they all have to be retitled from your name to the name of the trust. It requires a bunch of paperwork and an attorney. Honestly, it’s a bit of a pain. But it’s very much worth it. For one, it’s much harder to convince a judge that you were coerced into creating and funding the trust or that you didn’t know what you were doing.
That comes in stark contrast to a will, which basically requires a signature. And since people are pressured into changing their wills when their minds are not 100%, that can unfortunately complicate probate.
As I mentioned, you’ll need a lawyer to set up the trust, so it will cost you some money – probably in the neighborhood of $2,500 to $5,000, depending on where you live and the complexity of the trust.
But the time and expense of setting up the trust are very worth it in order to ensure your wishes are honored. And it will save time and money over the long run.
Lastly, you should still have a will even if you have a trust – especially if you have young children. You’ll need to appoint a guardian in the will. You’ll also want to use the will to name who gets various less valuable keepsakes, such as that Peter Frampton guitar pick you caught in 1976.
I strongly recommend a revocable living trust for families that want to make things easier on their heirs. If you don’t have an estate attorney, ask trusted friends or family for recommendations.
A revocable living trust allowed my mom to focus on what she needed to in order to get through a difficult time, rather than having to wonder and worry about finances.