What Is A Revocable Trust? Irrevocable vs Revocable Trust

Revocable Trust - Revocable Living Trust - Revocable Living Trust - What Is A Revocable Trust - Irrevocable vs Revocable Trust

What is a revocable living trust and how do they work? 

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • what is a revocable living trust
  • revocable vs irrevocable trusts
  • the core elements of a revocable trust
  • benefits and disadvantages of them
  • what NOT to put in a revocable trust
  • revocable trusts vs wills 
  • how to choose between a trust and a will
  • how much a revocable trust costs
  • who owns the property in a revocable trust

Let’s dig in. 

Table of Contents

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What Is A Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable living trust is a type of estate planning tool. 

It allows you to manage and control your assets during your lifetime and distribute them upon your death.

As the name suggests, a revocable trust is flexible. 

You can alter or dissolve it entirely as long as you are alive and mentally capable.

In the structure of a revocable living trust, you usually act as the trustee. 

This means you have control over the assets in the trust. 

Additionally, you specify a successor trustee who steps in:

  • when you cannot manage the trust 
  • after your death

One of the main advantages of revocable living trusts is that they help avoid probate. 

Probate is a legal process that can be lengthy and costly. 

With a revocable living trust, your assets bypass probate, passing directly to your specified beneficiaries.

Read More: Can I Set Up A Trust Without My Spouse?

Revocable vs Irrevocable Trusts

Revocable and irrevocable trusts are estate planning tools that let you manage and pass on your assets.

A revocable living trust is one you can change or cancel at any time while you’re alive and mentally capable. 

You usually act as the trustee and keep control over your assets. 

A revocable family trust works the same way but is set up for the benefit of family members.

On the other hand, an irrevocable living trust is different. 

Once you set it up, you can’t change or cancel it without the beneficiaries’ agreement. 

When you transfer assets into an irrevocable trust, you give up control over those assets. 

This is true for an irrevocable family trust as well.

The main advantage of an irrevocable trust is it can offer protection against creditors and estate taxes.

This is because the assets in the trust are no longer considered your personal assets. 

Revocable trusts don’t offer this level of protection because you still control the assets.

So, while a revocable living trust offers flexibility and control, an irrevocable living trust offers more protection and potential tax benefits. 

Read More: Does A Revocable Trust Become Irrevocable Upon Death

Key Elements Of A Revocable Living Trust

These are the key elements of a revocable living trust. 


The grantor, also known as the settlor or trustor, is the person who creates a revocable living trust

They put their assets into the trust and set the rules for how the revocable living trust should work.

The grantor has several responsibilities. 

One of the main ones is deciding what assets to put in the trust.

This could be real estate, money, investments, or other property.

The grantor also chooses the trustee who will manage the trust. 

Often, the grantor acts as the trustee while they’re alive and capable. 

This means they keep control over their assets.

Another big job for the grantor is naming the beneficiaries. 

These people will get the assets in the trust when the grantor dies.

One of the critical things about a revocable living trust is that the grantor can change it. 

As long as they’re mentally capable, they can:

  • add or remove assets
  • change the beneficiaries
  • even end the trust entirely 

This flexibility is a big advantage of a revocable living trust.

Read More: Joint Tenants With Rights Of Survivorship


The trustee’s role in a trust involves managing and overseeing the assets.

The trustee makes decisions about the trust assets, follows the trust rules, and works for the best interest of the beneficiaries.

The trustee’s duty of care to the beneficiaries means acting responsibly and carefully when managing the trust’s assets. 

The trustee must avoid reckless actions or neglect that could harm the trust. 

They should handle the trust assets as carefully as if they were their own.

The trustee also needs to be fair to all beneficiaries. 

They can’t favor one beneficiary over another unless the trust allows it.

Read More: Right Of Survivorship Deed

Successor Trustee

The successor trustee is the person you pick to take over the management of your trust if you can’t do it yourself or when you die.

While you’re alive and capable, you manage your own trust as the trustee. 

But if you get sick or mentally unfit, the successor trustee steps in. 

They make decisions about your assets according to the instructions you’ve left in the trust.

When you die, the successor trustee has another important job. 

They distribute your assets to your beneficiaries. 

This process bypasses probate, which makes it faster and simpler than using a will.

So, simply, the successor trustee manages your trust if you can’t.

And they carry out your wishes after your death.

Read More: Surviving Spouse Rights


Beneficiaries are the individuals or entities you name in your revocable trust who will receive your assets after your death. 

They could be your family members, friends, or even organizations like charities.

When you create the trust, you specify which assets each beneficiary will receive. 

You can change who your beneficiaries are or what they receive at any time, as long as you’re mentally capable. 

That’s the ‘revocable’ part of the revocable trust.

After your death, the successor trustee you appointed manages the asset distribution process. 

They transfer the assets in the trust to your beneficiaries according to your instructions.

One major advantage is that assets in the trust avoid probate. 

This means your beneficiaries often receive their assets faster and more privately than they would through a will.

In short, the beneficiaries in a revocable trust are those you choose to receive your assets after your death. 

The trustee ensures they get these assets according to your instructions and without going through probate.

Read More: How Long Does An Executor Have To Settle An Estate

Pros And Cons Of A Revocable Living Trust

Let’s look at the benefits and disadvantages of a revocable living trust. 

Revocable Trust Benefits

A revocable living trust comes with several benefits:

  • Avoids Probate: Assets in a revocable trust don’t go through probate. This means quicker and often cheaper distribution to beneficiaries.
  • Flexible: Since it’s revocable, you can change or dissolve it anytime while you’re alive and competent.
  • Control: As the trustee, you manage the assets in the trust during your lifetime.
  • Privacy: A revocable trust is not a public document. It keeps your asset distribution private after your death.
  • Prepares for Incapacity: If you can’t manage your affairs, your chosen successor trustee takes over.
  • Seamless Transfer: After your death, your successor trustee distributes assets to your beneficiaries smoothly.

Read More: Heir Property Laws

Potential Drawbacks of Revocable Living Trusts

Here are the potential drawbacks of a revocable trust:

  • Higher Initial Cost: Setting up a revocable trust can be more expensive than creating a simple will due to legal fees.
  • Time-Consuming Setup: Transferring ownership of your assets into the trust takes time and can be complex, especially for assets like real estate.
  • Ongoing Management: As the trustee, you are responsible for managing the trust’s assets and keeping track of any changes.
  • Limited Protection From Creditors: During your lifetime, a revocable trust doesn’t protect your assets from creditors because the trust can be altered or revoked.
  • No Estate Tax Savings: The assets in a revocable trust are still considered part of your estate for tax purposes, so the trust doesn’t provide any estate tax benefits.

Read More: How To Set Up A Family Trust

What Should You Not Put In A Revocable Trust?

While a revocable trust is a great tool for estate planning, there are certain things you shouldn’t put into it:

  • Retirement Accounts: Assets in retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s receive special tax treatments. If transferred to a trust, these benefits might be lost. Instead, name beneficiaries directly on these accounts.
  • Motor Vehicles: Transferring a vehicle to a trust can complicate issues related to insurance and liability. If an accident occurs, the trust could potentially be sued.
  • Property with a Mortgage: Putting a house in a trust may trigger a “due on sale” clause. The bank may require full repayment upon the transfer.
  • Certain Types of Stock: Some small business or cooperative stocks don’t allow transfer to a trust. Check with a business advisor before transferring these.

Read More: At What Net Worth Do I Need A Trust?

Comparison of Revocable Living Trusts and Wills

Let’s compare revocable living trusts to wills.

Revocable Trust vs Will

A revocable trust and a will are tools for estate planning, but they serve different purposes.

A revocable trust is a document that you create while you’re alive. 

It holds your assets, and you control these as the trustee. 

You also name a successor trustee to take over if you can’t manage your assets or after you die. 

Your chosen beneficiaries then receive the assets in the trust, skipping probate. 

You can change or end a revocable trust any time you want.

A will, on the other hand, is a document that outlines who gets your assets after your death. 

The process goes through probate, meaning a court oversees the distribution of assets. 

A will also lets you name guardians for minor children, something a revocable trust can’t do.

In short, a revocable trust and a will both allow you to direct who gets your assets after your death. 

However, a revocable trust also provides management of your assets if you become incapacitated and avoids probate. 

A will, though, is the only one that can name guardians for your minor children.

Read More: Do All Heirs Have To Agree To Sell Property?

How to Choose Between a Trust and a Will

Choosing between a will and a trust depends on:

  • your personal needs
  • the complexity of your assets
  • your long-term goals

A will costs less and is simpler to set up.

It’s a document that outlines who gets your assets after you die. 

A will only goes into effect after your death and needs to go through probate, a court process that can take time and money.

On the other hand, a revocable living trust is a more flexible tool. 

You can change it anytime during your life. 

The trust holds your assets and allows a chosen person (the trustee) to manage them if you become unable to do so. 

Upon your death, assets in the trust pass directly to your named beneficiaries, avoiding probate.

A revocable living trust might be better if you:

  • want more control over your assets
  • have complex assets like multiple properties or a business
  • want to avoid probate

If you have fewer assets and want a simpler, cheaper plan, a will may be more suitable.

Choosing between a will and a trust also depends on your privacy preferences. 

A will becomes a public document after your death when it goes through probate. 

A trust, however, remains private.

Read More: Who Needs A Trust Instead Of A Will?

How Much Does A Revocable Living Trust Cost?

The cost of setting up a revocable living trust can vary greatly. 

It depends on the complexity of your assets and your particular circumstances. 

For a basic trust, a lawyer might charge anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. 

More complex situations might cost $3,500 to $5,000+. 

These costs cover the lawyer’s time to create the trust document and transfer assets into the trust.

In addition to the initial set-up costs, you might face yearly fees if you hire a professional trustee to manage the trust. 

These fees typically depend on the value of the assets in the trust.

Also, remember there may be costs to amend the trust in the future, should your circumstances or wishes change. 

Typically, these amendment fees can range from $500 to $750.

In short, the cost of a revocable living trust depends on your unique needs and the complexity of your estate. 

Expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 for a simple trust to $5,000 or more for a complex situation.

(With possible additional costs for management and amendments.)

Read More: How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Trust Fund For A Child?

Who Owns The Property In A Revocable Trust?

In a revocable trust, the property is technically owned by the trust itself

The person who creates the trust, known as the grantor, usually acts as the trustee.

The grantor controls and manages the property while alive. 

After the grantor’s death or if they become incapacitated, the successor trustee, who the grantor appointed, takes over managing the property. 

The beneficiaries, which the grantor also chooses, will receive the property after the grantor’s death, as dictated by the terms of the trust.

Read More: Does Your House Have To Be Paid Off To Put It In A Trust

FAQs About Revocable Trusts

Here are common questions our clients ask us about revocable living trusts.

Which Is Better Revocable Or Irrevocable Trust?

A revocable trust and an irrevocable trust serve different purposes.

So, whether one is “better” depends on your specific needs and goals.

A revocable trust allows you to maintain control over your assets. 

You can change or end the trust at any time. 

It helps manage your assets if you become incapacitated and after your death, avoiding probate.

An irrevocable trust, once created, can’t be changed or ended without the beneficiaries’ consent. 

It offers greater protection from creditors and can be a tool for reducing estate taxes. 

However, you give up control of the assets you place into an irrevocable trust.

So, if maintaining control over your assets is important to you, a revocable trust may be better. 

But if protecting assets from creditors or reducing estate taxes is your goal, an irrevocable trust could be the better choice.

Read More: How To Put House In Trust With Mortgage

Who Needs A Revocable Trust?

A revocable trust is helpful for various people:

  • For those who want to avoid probate: A revocable trust can help avoid the probate process, which is often lengthy and costly. This means assets can be distributed to beneficiaries more quickly after death.
  • People with significant assets: If you have a large estate, a revocable trust can provide a structured plan for asset distribution.
  • People who want privacy: A will becomes a public record when it goes through probate, but a trust stays private. This is beneficial for those who prefer to keep their estate details confidential.
  • Individuals with complex family situations: If you have a blended family, own property in multiple states, or want to control how and when heirs receive their inheritance, a revocable trust can provide more flexibility than a will.
  • Those who want to plan for possible incapacity: A revocable trust lets you choose who will manage your assets if you become incapacitated without needing a court-appointed guardian.

Read More: Can I Set Up A Trust Without My Spouse?

Get A Revocable Living Trust

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  • protecting your hard-earned assets 
  • ensuring your family’s future
  • not losing everything to creditors and lawsuits
  • properly (and legally) distributing assets 

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  • Tailored solutions to fit your unique needs and goals
  • Expert guidance in navigating complex tax and legal matters
  • Preservation of your wealth for future generations
  • Streamlined asset distribution according to your wishes

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate estate planning strategies:

  • Creditors seizing your assets
  • Lawsuits jeopardizing your family’s financial security
  • Family disputes over inheritance
  • Costly and time-consuming probate processes

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