What is a Revocable Living Trust?
At the Socius Law Firm, we think Revocable Living Trusts are like a bucket. You create the bucket, put “stuff” in the bucket, you carry around the bucket and can add or remove what you put in the bucket at any time. If you become incapacitated or pass away, the bucket is handed to someone else who you trust to carry around and manage the bucket according to your instructions…
A Revocable Living Trust is the foundation of the modern estate plan. When properly drafted, a Revocable Living Trust is an estate planning tool that allows you to control how your assets are managed and used while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after you die – all without the costs, delays and publicity associated with the probate process.
A Revocable Living Trust can also be used to minimize or eliminate estate taxes upon your death, and to safeguard your assets from your loved ones’ financial immaturity, their creditors and judgment debtors, their possible bankruptcy, and even their potential future divorces.
The Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust
When many people hear the term “estate planning,” the first thought that comes to mind is the super-wealthy who large taxable estates. However, estate planning is about much more than estate taxes. The fact is, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan of their own.
The Players - Three Parties to Revocable Living Trust
THE GRANTOR – The person who creates the revocable living trust and owns the assets that will be transferred into the trust.
THE TRUSTEE – The person who manages those assets held in revocable living trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries.
THE BENEFICIARY – The individuals who are getting the benefit of those assets held in the revocable living trust.
While you are alive and well, you would hold all three of these roles with respect to your revocable living trust: you are the grantor, the trustee, and the beneficiary. In other words, you are transferring your assets into your trust, which you will then manage for your own benefit during your lifetime. Life goes on as usual. This will not feel any different to you from how you are used to dealing with your assets now.
However, when you first establish your trust, you will name other people to serve in the various roles down the line. For example, you will name successor trustees to take over the management of your trust if you become incapacitated or die, and you will name beneficiaries to get the benefit of your assets upon your death. Because the trust is revocable, you can make changes to these choices any time you want for the rest of your life.
Creating a Revocable Living Trust is not Enough
The key to making a revocable living trust-based estate plan work is to ensure that you have properly funded or transferred your assets into your trust as soon as it is created. If you die and some or all of your assets are not held in the name of your trust, they will have to go through the court-supervised probate process in order to be transferred to your loved ones, defeating one of the benefits of your revocable living trust-based plan.
All too often we hear about individuals who use a do-it-yourself estate plan online through some internet service who had no idea they were supposed to fund their trust, let alone how to go about doing it. They are unaware their plan will not work as they may be led to believe. In fact, by failing to transfer assets into their trust, they are ensuring that their loved ones will have to go through the probate process.
This is one of the reasons, the Socius Law Firm strongly caution our clients about thinking of estate planning as a set of documents. And, unfortunately thinking of estate planning this way gives a very false sense of security.
Estate Planning is about making a series of informed decisions and taking a series of thoughtful actions, all of which are designed to ensure that in the event of your incapacity or death, things will transition in the way you would have hoped, with the least disruption possible and with minimal or no intrusion by the court. Internet services don’t provide legal advice or implementation guidance.
Proper legal advice is critical to ensure you are not only establishing a revocable living trust that will meet your unique needs, but that you are properly transferring your existing assets into it, and properly acquiring all future ones in the name of your trust. A good estate planning attorney will help you do this up front, and will also help you monitor your trust for the long-term to be sure you continue to keep it up to date as your needs and assets change.
How Much Does it Cost to Establish a Revocable Living Trust
Make sure that if you are taking steps to plan for your family’s future well-being, you are doing it in a thoughtful and effective way. The internet DIY forms will not come with legal advice or guidance, nor will they come with life-long relationship. Although it might cost a little more up front to hire a competent attorney to create your revocable living trust, think about the thousands of dollars you will save when the time comes by avoiding unnecessary probate costs, minimizing your estate taxes, and protecting your children’s inheritance through thoughtful trust-based estate planning.
Depending upon your marital status and the complexity of your needs, you should expect to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 to create a foundational revocable living trust-based estate plan. This should include not only your revocable living trust, but the other key aspects of a comprehensive estate plan as well, such as wills, financial powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney, and living wills. For families with minor children or special needs family members, a foundational plan should also include a Kids Safeguard Plan to address guardian issues for both the short- and long-term. Your fee should also include future follow-up.
Questions Our Clients Often Ask
At the Socius Law Firm, we believe estate planning is a process where you design a blueprint that:
- allows you to control your property when you are alive and well
- enables you to control how your & your loved ones are cared for in the event of incapacity
- allows you to control how your assets are managed, used and passed in the event of your death
- enables you to save every last tax dollar, professional and court cost.
While this is typically accomplished through a set of estate planning documents, it is crucial to keep in mind that estate planning is not only about the documents themselves. It is about making a series of informed decisions and taking a series of thoughtful actions, all of which are designed to ensure that in the event of your incapacity or death, things will transition in the way you would have hoped, with the least disruption possible and with minimal or no intrusion by the court.
Learn more about the Socius Law Firm's unique 6-Step Estate Planning Process.
Both a Will and a Trust are useful estate planning documents, but understanding their differences will help you decide which is right for your particular estate planning objectives and personal circumstances.
Find out why a Will alone may not be the best choice for you and your family by viewing our side-by-side comparison chart.
As the foundation of the modern estate plan, a Revocable Trust helps you control how your assets are managed and used while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after you die.
A Living Trust enables the coordinated distribution of all of your assets, while maintaining the greatest degree of asset control and flexibility - both during your lifetime and after death.
There are many important benefits of Trusts beyond federal and MA estate tax considerations such as:
- Avoiding probate and ensuring a smooth transition
- Protecting assets
- Planning for incapacity or disability (without Court oversight)
- Controlling distributions to beneficiaries (give what you have…to whom you want, the way you want, when you want)
- Maintaining 100% privacy
We offer four levels of comprehensive estate planning - each highly customized to meet your unique family situation. Plan fees are dependent upon your personal values, goals and objectives.
From starter plans primarily for families with young children and little in the way of financial wealth, to more robust plans for well-established families who want to avoid probate, provide asset protection and eliminate or minimize estate taxes, we offer estate planning levels to meet your needs and objectives. Estate planning fees generally range from $1,200.00 up to $8,500.00 on the high end for an extensive estate plan. We also offer several advanced estate planning options for those who need even more planning.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have established a unique estate planning process where we listen and learn about you, your family and personal circumstances, thoroughly explain the estate planning options available to you and custom design, implement and maintain a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your specific concerns, fears, goals and objectives. Our process is designed to ensure your confidence at each step along the way, from the initial planning meeting through the delivery and implementation of your completed plan and beyond. The ultimate outcome of our estate planning process is to give you peace of mind.
We all like to put off important tasks and wait until the very last minute, this includes estate planning. There is always “something” that would be more fun to spend time doing or money on. However, honestly there are few things that are more important and none that are a better investment for yourself and your family. Take the first step….
Probate is a process whereby the Probate Court supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners.
Probate is generally a long, frustrating and expensive process. Much of our practice is devoted to using trusts and other planning tools to help our clients avoid probate altogether. However, for families who did not do probate avoidance planning, we are frequently hired to guide them through the probate process.
If you become mentally incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs. Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated. The truth is that for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition the Probate Court to declare you legally incompetent.
This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen, they may have to come back to the Probate Court every year and show how they are spending and investing the money.
If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you without Probate Court interference, you must designate a person or persons that you trust with the use of a Durable Power of Attorney.
A Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust - for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. Without a Health Care Proxy, your loved ones would have to petition the Probate Court for authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.
In addition to a Health Care Proxy, you should also have a Living Will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have developed an expertise in planning for the well-being and care of children should the unthinkable happen. We call this advanced legal planning — Kids’ Safeguard Planning.
Kids’ Safeguard Planning is based on the premise that a Will alone is simply not enough to protect minor children should both parents die or become incapacitated.
If you are a parent of minor children, your estate plan needs to include Kids’ Safeguard Planning to ensure your children will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, and never put in a situation you wouldn’t like.