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Understanding Revocable Living Trusts in California

A revocable living trust is a term often mentioned in estate planning, but many people are unsure about what it actually entails. In this post, we will clarify what a revocable living trust is, how it works, and why it might be beneficial for you.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal document that outlines specific instructions on how the assets governed by that trust will be managed. When you fund your trust, you transfer assets into the name of the trust. These assets are then controlled according to the rules set out in the trust document, which you create with your attorney.

How Does a Trust Work?

To understand how a trust works, consider it similar to setting up a corporation. Just as a corporation has a board of directors, assets, and governing rules, a living trust operates with a set of instructions that the trustees must follow. The trustees manage the assets in the trust according to these predefined rules.

Why is it Called a Revocable Living Trust?

The term “revocable” indicates that the trust can be altered or revoked during the grantor’s lifetime. This flexibility is crucial because it allows you to maintain control over your assets. For example, if you and your spouse create a trust together and later divorce, you can revoke the trust and redistribute the assets as needed.

Benefits of a Revocable Living Trust

  1. Control Over Assets: Even though the assets are in the name of the trust, you retain full control over them. You can add or remove assets and change the terms of the trust as long as you are alive.
  2. Avoid Probate: One significant advantage of a living trust is that it helps your estate avoid probate. Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, but assets held in a trust can be transferred directly to beneficiaries without court intervention.
  3. Privacy: Unlike a will, which becomes a public document during probate, a trust remains private. This privacy can be important for those who wish to keep their financial affairs confidential.
  4. Flexibility: A revocable living trust allows you to make adjustments based on changes in your personal circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of children.

Creating a Revocable Living Trust

Creating a revocable living trust involves working with an attorney to draft the trust document. You will need to decide on the rules that will govern the trust, the trustees who will manage the assets, and the beneficiaries who will receive the assets. Once the trust is established, you will fund it by transferring ownership of your assets into the name of the trust.


A revocable living trust is a powerful tool for managing your assets and ensuring they are distributed according to your wishes. It provides flexibility, control, and privacy, making it an essential component of a comprehensive estate plan. If you are considering setting up a trust, consult with an attorney to understand how it can benefit your specific situation.