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USING YOUR REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST Revocable Living Trusts Give People Making An Estate Plan Several Key Benefits Yet Despite These Positives, Living Trusts Are Not an Estate Planning Cure-All

Larry Deason and Shawn Garner Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys in Yuma Arizona


One of the slightly unusual aspects of a revocable living trust is that in most situations you, the grantor, will also serve as the trustee and the beneficiary. One of the most effective tools available to people creating an estate plan today is a revocable living trust. Sometimes abbreviated as an RLT, or referred to as simply a living trust, revocable living trusts give people making an estate plan several key benefits. Yet despite these positives, living trusts are not an estate planning cure-all. To get a better understanding of what living trust do and what benefits they afford, you will want to better familiarize yourself with these important instruments.

Trust Operation Like all trusts, living trust creates a legal entity that can own property. Someone who creates the trust is called a grantor, settlor, or trustor. You create a trust by creating a trust document, which is simply a written instrument that you sign, have notarized, and in which you include specific details.

Those details you have to include state, for example, why you are creating the trust, who gets to benefit from the trust property, the conditions under which the trust must operate, who you appoint to

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Using Your Revocable Living Trust

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manage the trust while you are alive, and who will manage the trust after you have become incapacitated or to have died. The person you choose to manage your trust is called the trustee, while the people who benefit from the trust property are known as the beneficiaries.

One of the slightly unusual aspects of a revocable living trust is that in most situations you, the grantor, will also serve as the trustee and the beneficiary. This means that the property you transfer to the trust will, even though it’s legally owned by the trust self, be under your control at all times. As trustee you will manage this property just like you would individually owned property, but also retain the ability to benefit or use that property as you see fit.

The property the trust owns is known as the trust corpus. In order to create the trust corpus, you have to take some of your individually owned property and transfer it into the trust’s name. This process is called funding, and depending on the type of property you want to transfer, the steps involved can range from the very simple to the very complex.

Estate Taxes and Probate

In 2013, the federal estate tax exemption limit was set at $5.25 million per individual. This means that if a person dies in 2013 leaving behind assets worth less than the $5.25 million

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mark, that estate will not be subject to any federal estate taxation.

Needless to say, because of the high exemption limit, and because couples can effectively combine their limit to shield $10.5 million in estate value from taxation, very few people have to worry about paying estate taxes.

Because of this, revocable living trusts have become increasingly more popular. One of the downsides of a revocable living trust is that it does nothing to limit how much your estate would have to pay if it was subject to estate tax. However, because the limit is so high, this has mostly become a moot point.

So, the main reason many more people have begun creating revocable living trust today is because they wish to avoid probate. Avoiding probate is one of the primary benefits revocable living trusts affords. When you create your trust, that trust can outlive you. After transferring your property into the trust’s name, you have essentially created a legal entity that will continue to exist after you die. Because the trust is still around, and because your property is under the trust’s name, you can direct the trust to transfer that property to your inheritors without having to go through probate.

In other words, any property you transfer into the trust’s name is property that doesn’t have to go before the probate court after you die.

To ensure that this non-probate transfer takes place as you want it to, you have to appoint a successor trustee. Just as you manage the trust property as trustee, the successor trustee will take over your management responsibilities after you die, or in

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Using Your Revocable Living Trust

Deason Garner Law Firm

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the event you become incapacitated. You can choose anyone you like to serve as a successor trustee, but the person or organization you choose will have the responsibility to manage trust property and see that it is transferred in the manner you stated when you created the trust document.

Protecting Your Assets and Your Living Trust

For many people, the issue of protecting their assets from creditors or litigation is not something they’ve given a lot of thought. For others, creating an estate plan that focuses on asset protection is extremely important.

Regardless of your desires or your long-term goals, you must understand that creating and using a revocable living trust will not provide you with any additional asset protection benefits than you might already have. Living trusts do not “shield” your assets from creditors. In order to better protect your assets, you and your attorney will have to discuss what options are available to you.

Your Trust as a Piece of a Larger Whole Notwithstanding the significant benefits a living trust affords you, these devices are not suitable for everyone, or for every estate planning purpose. As we’ve already discussed, living trusts are not ideal if you need to reduce your estate tax exposure or want to protect your assets.

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Using Your Revocable Living Trust

Deason Garner Law Firm

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Like all estate planning tools, a living trust is only as good as you allow it to be. This means that you have to create your living trust in light of the other estate planning elements you create. You cannot accomplish all of your goals solely by creating a single tool. In order to get the most out of estate planning, you have to create a living trust as a part of a plan. Only by discussing your estate planning desires with an experienced attorney can you be sure that you will create a living trust, and a broader estate plan, that meets all of your needs.

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Using Your Revocable Living Trust

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About the Authors Larry Deason and his staff have been providing quality legal services for clients since 1971. Their mission is to assist people who are concerned about protecting their families from the devastating legal and financial impacts of disability, death, and taxes.

Larry Deason

Because he believes in the importance of an informed public, Deason spends considerable time educating consumers about Estate Planning issues. He writes a monthly Estate Planning column in The Sun, and he regularly conducts seminars on various Estate Planning topics. Deason and his staff believe that in many instances Living Trusts offer clients a proven and powerful tool for protecting their families from the expense and delay of probate, as well as a strategy for eliminating or minimizing federal taxes. Deason’s firm is staffed with paralegals and consultants who are experienced and trained in a variety of Estate Planning areas. The aim of each member of the firm is to help clients accomplish their Estate Planning goals while taking the mystery out of the whole process. We take pride in knowing that our clients feel “peace of mind� once the planning process is completed.

Shawn Garner

In 2008, Mr. Garner began practicing law in Yuma in the fields of commercial litigation and bankruptcy. In 2011, Mr. Garner switched his field of practice to exclusively estate planning because he found it more rewarding to help people avoid the costs and stresses associated with litigation more than trying to resolve disputes through litigation and court intervention

Deason Garner Law Firm 242 West 28th Street, Suite A Yuma, AZ 85364 Phone: (928) 783-4575 www.DeasonGarnerLaw.com

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Using Your Revocable Living Trust

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Using Your Revocable Living Trust