couple discussing living trust with lawyer


Assets in a revocable living trust avoid probate while providing long-term property management. Creators usually appoint themselves trustees, exercising complete control over trust assets. As the name implies, a "revocable living trust" may be revoked (terminated) by the creator at any time during their lifetime. After executing a living trust, the creator continues to enjoy all the present benefits of their assets without changing their ability to control them.

How is a living trust created?
The document used to establish a revocable living trust is called a "Declaration of Trust" which sets forth the terms and conditions of the revocable living trust. After executing the Declaration of Trust, the creator "funds" the trust by transferring assets into it.
What are the benefits of a revocable living trust?
Privacy and probate avoidance. A living trust avoids probate and is not subject to court supervision. Contents of the trust remain private, and trust property passes quickly to the beneficiaries. 

What is the difference between a last will and testament and a revocable living trust?

A last will and testament provides instruction on how your estate will be divided after your death and involves a timely and sometimes expensive court process called probate. A living trust benefits the grantor during their lifetime and allows the property placed within the trust to avoid probate after their death. 
Will my living trust remain legal if I move to another state?

Yes, living trusts are legal in every state and all states recognize trusts based on the laws of another state. Your living trust will specify the state laws governing it.

I have real estate in multiple states. Will a living trust affect probate in those states?

The trust avoids second-state probate if title to the out-of-state properly was properly transferred to the trust.

If I become incompetent or ill, who will manage my living trust?

The successor trustee takes over and manages the trust during a period of incapacity.

Living trust vs will.
Wills and living trusts are both vehicles to distribute a decedent's assets. 

A last will and testament must go through probate, a court-supervised process that can be costly, time-consuming, and expensive. Family members can become combative during probate. 

A living trust eliminates the burden of probate. While beneficiaries often wait many months or years to receive probated assets, the successor trustee distributes living trust assets within weeks. 
What costs more, a will or living trust?
A living trust generally costs 3 to 5 times more than a will to prepare. But, a will is a one-way ride to probate. The rule of thumb for calculating the cost of probate is 5% to 10% of the estate value. In the end, a living trust can be less expensive than a last will.

Consider the intangible cost of someone overriding your wishes, a more likely scenario in probate. A living trust enhances the probability of adherence to your wishes.  
declaration of trust form

updated for 2022


The document used to establish a revocable living trust is called a "Declaration of Trust," which sets forth the terms and conditions of the revocable living trust. After executing the Declaration of Trust, creators transfer assets to themselves as trustees of the living trust. Transferring titled assets, such as real estate or vehicles, requires retitling — transferring other assets requires merely adding them to the schedule of assets referenced by the declaration of trust. Learn more about Transferring Assets to a Living Trust.

How can I create my own living trust?

Follow these steps:
  • Get a valid living trust form -- a declaration of trust -- from a reputable vendor.

  • Choose a name for your living trust. Ex: The John Q Public Revocable Living Trust.

  • Choose a successor trustee(s) and alternate -- the person(s) who will execute your wishes when you pass away.

  • List assets you wish to place in the trust. 

  • Choose beneficiaries for assets placed in the trust.

  • Sign your trust in the presence of a notary. 

What's the difference between a last will and living trust?
A last will and testament provides instructions on how you want assets distributed and affairs conducted after your death. A living trust puts your assets under the control of a trustee (usually yourself) during your lifetime. Upon your death, the successor trustee holds trust assets and distributes them to benefit your named beneficiaries.

Unlike a will, a living trust requires management. The principal must transfer assets to and from the trust.
What is a revocable trust vs irrevocable trust?
An irrevocable trust is permanent and cannot be changed or altered after creation. A revocable trust can be changed or revoked at any time. The trustee of a revocable trust may transfer assets to the trust today and remove them tomorrow without adverse consequence. A living trust is a revocable trust. 

Does a living trust protect assets from creditors?

A revocable living trust will not protect your assets from creditors. The reason is that you own the trust assets during your lifetime. However, living trust assets are not subject to liens against a beneficiary.
What is the difference between a living trust and a living will?
A living will is a medical directive telling family members and health care professionals choices for end-of-life medical care. A living trust controls assets and lays out instructions for distributing those assets after death.
Advantages and disadvantages of revocable living trusts.

Advantages include

    • control over assets,
    • elimination of the uncertainties of probate,
    • maintaining privacy after death,
    • avoiding conservatorships,
    • protecting assets from court challenges, and
    • quickly distributing assets to beneficiaries. 

Disadvantages include 

    • ongoing management, 
    • record-keeping, 
    • transfer taxes, and 
    • expense.

A living trust requires action to transfer property in and out. Assets without title are added by simply listing them on the schedule of assets, but titled assets must be retitling. There are revocable living trust forms and guides to minimize these tasks.

The difference between a living trust and revocable livng trust.

A "living" document may be continually edited and updated by either a limited or unrestricted group. Thus, a living trust is revocable by definition. The terms living trust and revocable living trust are interchangeable.

More revocable living trust questions ...