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Revocable living trust


A revocable living trust is a type of living trust that allows the trustor to change or revoke (take back) the trust at any time, as long as they are mentally competent. This article explains what a living trust is and the difference between revocable and irrevocable living trusts. It then explains how to create, change, and revoke a revocable living trust.

What is a living trust?

A living trust is a type of trust that allows the person who created it (called the trustor, settlor, grantor, or trustmaker) to enjoy and control their own assets, such as money or property, while they are still alive. When the trustor dies, a new trustee, called the successor trustee, takes over. The assets are normally distributed to the named beneficiaries within 12-18 months after the original trustor’s death. 1

With a living trust, the trustor usually acts as their own trustee. This means they are the person who manages the trust as well as the person who created it and who owns the assets.

A living trust is similar to a will, in the sense that it names beneficiaries who receive a person’s assets once that person has died. One main difference is that when the trustor dies, the money or property doesn’t have to go through the probate process, which can be a long and expensive one.

What is a revocable living trust?

A revocable living trust is a type of living trust that allows the trustor to change or revoke (take back) the trust at any time, as long as they are mentally competent. It is different in this way from an irrevocable living trust, where the terms of the trust cannot be changed or taken back.

Some situations where the trustor might want to change the terms of their trust include:

  • They have a child or get married and want to add their child or spouse as beneficiaries.
  • Their spouse or another major beneficiary dies and needs to be removed.
  • They change their mind about who they want to leave assets to.

Situations where the trustor might want to revoke the trust completely include:

  • They want to make a lot of changes that could lead to confusion.
  • They get divorced and their ex-spouse is a major beneficiary.

How is a revocable living trust created?

There are multiple steps to creating a revocable living trust. The main ones are:

  1. Make a list of your assets and decide which ones you’ll put into the trust. These can include your house, car, life-insurance policies, pension funds, and so on. 
  2. Collect paperwork such as deeds, titles, and certificates, as you will need to transfer the official ownership of all these assets from yourself to the trust.
  3. Choose your beneficiaries. These can include your spouse/partner and family members, friends, and charities.
  4. Choose your successor trustee. Much like the executor of a will, the successor trustee will handle the trust, pay any debts, and distribute assets to the named beneficiaries.
  5. Create the trust document. The laws for this differ from state to state, so be sure to check. You can also hire a lawyer or estate planner to create the document for you. Once it is created, you will need to sign it. In some states, you will need to get it witnessed and/or notarized.

Can a revocable living trust be changed?

There are two main ways to change a revocable living trust:

  1. Create a trust amendment. This is for specific changes, such as naming a new successor trustee or adding a beneficiary. There are trust amendment forms available online. Once the trustor has filled out the form, they may need to get it signed by witnesses and/or a notary, depending on the laws in their state. They should then attach the amendment form to the main trust agreement so that the documents stay together.
  2. Create a trust restatement. This method is usually used if the trustor is making major changes or has made multiple amendments that could create confusion. Restating a trust means rewriting the whole trust document. This can be done using an online template or having a lawyer draft the document. The trust restatement document will replace the original document.  

With both a trust amendment and a trust restatement, the trust itself remains the same. It still contains the same assets as before.

Can a revocable living trust be revoked?

There are two main steps to revoking a living trust:

  1. Remove the assets from the trust. The trustor first needs to take out all the assets that have been transferred into the trust. This means they need to change titles, deeds, and other documents in order to transfer the ownership back from the trust to themselves.
  2. Sign a formal revocation. The trustor then needs to fill out and sign a formal revocation form. In most states, a notary will need to sign the form.

Related information

Decisions relating to aging and the end of life

Financial plans versus estate plans

Overview of estate plans

Overview of trusts

Protecting assets from mishandling

Protecting assets from taxes and fees

Will and testament

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