What is a Revocable Living Trust Agreement?
A Revocable Living Trust Agreement, often simply referred to as a "living trust," is a legal document that allows an individual, referred to as the "grantor" or "settlor," to determine how their assets will be managed and distributed during their lifetime and after their death. What sets a revocable living trust apart from other trusts is the ability of the grantor to modify or revoke the trust at any time while they are alive and mentally competent.
Key Components and Purposes of a Revocable Living Trust Agreement
1. Grantor/Settlor: The individual who creates the trust. This person transfers assets into the trust for management.
2. Trustee: The person or institution responsible for managing and distributing the trust's assets. The grantor often acts as the initial trustee in a living trust, managing their own assets during their lifetime. Upon the grantor's death or incapacity, a successor trustee, previously named in the trust agreement, takes over.
3. Beneficiaries: Individuals or entities designated to receive benefits from the trust. This could be in the form of income distributions or eventual distribution of assets upon the death of the grantor.
4. Revocability: The trust can be changed, modified, or entirely revoked by the grantor at any point during their lifetime, as long as they are mentally competent.
5. Assets: A detailed list or description of assets that are transferred into the trust. This can include real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and more.
6. Distribution Instructions: Specific details about how and when the trust's assets are to be distributed to beneficiaries. This can be during the grantor's lifetime, upon their death, or at some specified future date or event.
7. Provisions for Incapacity: Instructions regarding how the assets should be managed and used in the event the grantor becomes mentally or physically incapacitated.
8. Avoid Probate: One of the primary advantages of a revocable living trust is that assets within the trust avoid probate, which can expedite asset distribution to beneficiaries after the grantor's death and can also offer a level of privacy not found in the probate process.
9. Tax Considerations: While a revocable living trust avoids probate, it does not provide significant tax advantages. Since it's revocable, assets in the trust are considered part of the grantor's taxable estate. However, the trust can be structured in ways to maximize tax efficiencies.
10. Final Arrangements: Some trusts also include details about the grantor's wishes for their funeral, burial, or other final arrangements.
It's important to note that simply creating a revocable living trust document isn't enough; the grantor must also "fund" the trust by formally transferring assets into it. Otherwise, the trust document will exist, but it won't hold and control any assets.
Given the complexity and potential legal ramifications of creating a trust, it's highly recommended that individuals seek legal counsel when establishing or modifying a Revocable Living Trust Agreement.