"What is a revocable trust and how does this legal instrument work?"

Answer:  A revocable trust is one type of trust.  In general, trusts present many planning opportunities.  The hallmark of a revocable trust is that it may be revoked or amended at any time.  Other trusts cannot be revoked.  These are called “irrevocable”.  In some jurisdictions the revocable trust is called a “living trust.”   Some of the purposes of a revocable trust are:  To avoid probate at death, including more than one probate if you have properties in more than one state and prevent court oversight and control of the disposition of your assets if you become incapacitated.  If your assets are held in a revocable trust, they may be more rapidly distributed to your beneficiaries than through the probate process.  A properly drafted revocable trust may reduce or eliminate estate taxes.  A revocable trust is difficult to contest and can prevent court oversight of minors’ inheritances.  In that instance, you choose who oversees the minor’s monies.  It can prevent problems that occur with joint ownership of property, and unintended results upon death.  A revocable trust is not expensive to set up.

A trust like this works when you transfer your assets from your name to the trust over which you maintain control during your lifetime.  Technically the trust owns everything you transfer into it, but YOU maintain control and can do anything you want to do with those assets during your lifetime.  If you become incapacitated, the trust and not the court will control you assets. You do not have to have a separate tax ID for a revocable trust.  There are times when a revocable trust may not  be a good idea is when you need to protect assets for long-term care needs.  This is because the assets in this type of trust are fully countable, and will have to be spent down before you may seek Medicaid benefits.  Sometimes people place their primary residence into a revocable trust.  The difficulty here is that for Medicaid purposes you have transferred an asset that is not countable when you seek Medicaid, and made it entirely countable by the transfer into the trust. 

These trusts should be drafted for you by a qualified estate  planning and elder law  attorney IN YOUR STATE who specializes in Elder Law and Estate Planning, following a full intake to ensure that this move is right for you.  Please note:  I am a Massachusetts elder law attorney, and the law may be different elsewhere.

To locate attorneys in your state who can help you with this elder care matter, I would recommend that you search the ElderCare Matters listing of experts at www.ElderCareMatters.com/statechapters.htm.

Susana Lannik, Attorney at Law
Newton, MA  02458
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Massachusetts chapter

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