I am an estate planning attorney in Petaluma serving Marin, Sonoma, and Napa. I draft Revocable Living Trusts, allowing you to control your assets while alive, take care of you and your family if you become disabled and give what you have to who you want, when you want, the way you want, with the least cost possible. There are many different types of trusts designed for different purposes, but the revocable living trust is the most common trust utilized for avoiding a dreaded probate process that is open to the public, costly, time consuming and draining.
A Revocable Living Trust avoids probate because it is a fictitious person you control and that fictitious person holds those titled assets, such as your home, other real estate, or financial assets so that the assets are not in your name at death thereby avoiding the court probate process. Essentially, if you own a home you must have a revocable living trust in addition to a will.
REASONS WHY PEOPLE USE A TRUST
1. As mentioned above, it avoids probate.
2. You keep control. Your trust document contains your instructions for managing your assets and the use of your funds in the event of your death or incapacity. A revocable trust does not restrain you from selling property, changing your beneficiaries or your trustee, and you can revoke it should you decide to do so.
3. Your privacy is maintained. Probate is a public process that includes publication in a local newspaper and is available to anyone who is interested, whereas a trust is private. By being private it avoids a will contest, it avoids notice to creditors or to disgruntled relatives, and your beneficiaries remain out of the public eye.
4. It is far less expensive than probate. The costs of settling your estate are far less with a trust.
5. It takes less time. A trust can be settled in a few weeks or months whereas probate can take almost a year at best. The court is not involved and your successor trustee immediately takes control of your estate without a court conservatorship.
6. Low maintenance. Once you set up your trust it is self sufficient unless you decide to make changes to it such as changing a beneficiary or successor trustee. An amendment to your trust is usually a simple process. If you sell your house and buy another then all you need to do is title the new home in the name of your revocable living trust.
7. No special government forms. No separate tax return is necessary with a revocable living trust. No need to file any agreement, report, or notice with a governmental agency.
8. Disability. No one ever knows when an accident will happen to you leading to your disability. Your living trust allows you, and not the probate court to appoint the manager of your affairs upon our incapacity, thus avoiding a “living probate”. Will and owning property in joint tenancy do not solve this problem.