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The revocable trust: controlled, flexible and private

Many people in the estate planning world will eagerly offer arguments opposing a writer’s stated view that a revocable trust “is essentially a will replacement.”

That author -- an industry insider – makes a number of cogent arguments to advance that point in a recent Kiplinger article spotlighting revocable trust basics, but they are open to discussion, of course. The bottom line concerning any will-versus-trust debate for most people seeking a true analysis likely centers around the tested insights that can be offered by a proven estate planning attorney.

This much is certainly true, though: Legions of individual and family planners across California and the country who spend some time learning about revocable trusts become materially impressed by the benefits they readily offer, and in concert -- not opposition -- with wills.

Grantor control/flexibility is one such benefit. A trust creator has continued power and oversight of a revocable trust during his or her lifetime, with unfettered autonomy to adjust it as desired – or even terminate it.

Privacy is another benefit, with a revocable trust offering clear advantages compared with a will. The above-cited writer notes that a will “directs assets toward the court system for probate administration,” which is often “time-consuming, cumbersome, public and quite expensive.” Conversely, a revocable trust makes assets immediately available to beneficiaries upon a grantor’s death, and in a private manner free from court controls.

Of course, some required duties and restrictions attach to revocable trusts as well. Assets put into a trust during a creator’s lifetime must be carefully retitled. And individuals looking for tax-sheltered benefits will not find them in a revocable trust (an irrevocable trust is another matter, having tax-linked advantages that planning counsel can spotlight for a client).

Is a revocable trust something to look into?

It might be, with many planners finding a trust-linked conversation with an experienced estate planning lawyer to be instructive and ultimately profitable.

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