A Living Trust is a legal document that is intended to act as a partial substitute for, as well as a supplement to, a Will. The Settlor may transfer major assets like his or her, home, savings and investment accounts, to the Trust. The trust document contains instructions for distributing these assets upon the Settlor's death. This type of Trust is referred to as "revocable" because the Settlor can amend or revoked at any time during his or her lifetime. It is a flexible document that can be updated given a change in circumstances such as a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child.
Revocable Living Trusts are managed for the benefit of the Settlor during his or her lifetime. Generally, Settlors name themselves as trustees of their Living Trust so that they may have full control over the management of their assets. If you have named yourself as trustee, you must also name successor trustees in order to establish who will manage the trust once you are no longer willing or able to do so.
The biggest advantage of a Living Trust is savings in both cost and time. Unlike a Will, a Living Trust does not have to go through probate to be executed. Probate is the court supervised process through which assets in a Will are distributed. The probate process can take months depending on the complexity of the estate and whether or not anyone chooses to contest the Will. Since the assets held in a Living Trust are transferred directly to the appropriate beneficiaries, the courts do not have to become involved in the process at all. All assets can be liquidated and distributed within weeks.
Living Trusts are also easy to administer, making it easier to choose trustees and successor trustees. Family members or trusted friends with no legal background will be able to serve as trustees. Being able to manage your own trust and have a family member become a trustee when you are no longer able can add to your peace of mind and make the process easier on your heirs.
A Revocable Living Trust allows for flexibility and security. Assets in the Trust can be built up over time, and access to income for beneficiaries continues uninterrupted should you become incapacitated. A Living Trust also ensures that your heirs will be able to avoid any aggravation and frustration that probate may cause.
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