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Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which One Is Right for Me?

Bochnewich Law Offices Nov. 28, 2023

Have you ever considered setting up a trust for yourself and your family? According to a 2020 report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), nearly 60% of American adults have not engaged in estate planning, which includes setting up a trust.  

When it comes to future-proofing your estate and financial situation, trusts can provide an added layer of protection for assets. However, deciding between the various types of trusts can get complicated. Let's look at revocable versus irrevocable trusts—two of the most popular options when it comes to protecting asset ownership. 

As a law firm that takes pride in helping our clients make informed decisions, at Bochnewich Law Offices, we believe it's essential to understand the tools available for estate planning. Knowing the differences between revocable and irrevocable trusts can play a significant role in creating an estate plan that fits your needs. As your legal counsel, we can explain to you the characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of both revocable and irrevocable trusts so you can make the best choice given your family’s situation. 

Understanding Trusts

To begin, let's delve into the concept of a trust. A trust is a legal arrangement in which a person, referred to as the grantor, transfers their assets to a trustee for management. This trustee, acting in accordance with the trust document, oversees and distributes these assets to designated beneficiaries.

Trusts serve various purposes, such as avoiding probate, safeguarding assets, and facilitating the seamless transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. By establishing a trust, individuals can exercise greater control and ensure the fulfillment of their wishes regarding the disposition of their assets. With its flexibility and comprehensive nature, a trust provides a robust framework for the preservation and efficient administration of wealth. 

Revocable Trusts

A revocable trust, also referred to as a living trust, is one that can be changed or revoked by the grantor during their lifetime. As the name suggests, a revocable trust allows the grantor to retain control over their assets while alive. It also ensures a seamless transfer of these assets to beneficiaries upon the grantor's passing. 

Pros and cons of revocable trusts: 

  • Pro - Flexibility to modify: The main advantage of a revocable trust is that it offers flexibility. The grantor can alter the trust document, add, or remove beneficiaries, change distribution instructions, or even revoke the trust entirely. 

  • Pro - Avoidance of probate: Assets held in a revocable trust bypass the probate process, which can be lengthy, pricey, and public. This allows for a more private and quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries. 

  • Con - Lack of asset protection: On the downside, assets in a revocable trust remain part of the grantor's estate and aren't protected from creditors or legal claims. 

Ideal situations for choosing a revocable trust:

If you value flexibility and control over your assets and wish to avoid probate, a revocable trust could be the right choice, especially if your estate plan is relatively straightforward. 

Irrevocable Trusts

An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot be altered or revoked without the beneficiaries' consent. In an irrevocable trust, the grantor permanently transfers their assets into the trust, relinquishing ownership and control. 

Pros and cons of irrevocable trusts: 

  • Pro - Asset protection: One of the main benefits of an irrevocable trust is that it provides superior asset protection. Once assets are transferred to the trust, they are no longer considered part of the grantor's estate, protecting them from creditors and legal claims. 

  • Pro - Potential tax benefits: Structuring an irrevocable trust can offer potential tax advantages, such as reducing estate taxes or safeguarding assets from capital gains taxes. 

  • Con - Inability to modify or revoke without consent of beneficiaries: Unlike revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts cannot be altered or revoked without the beneficiaries' consent. This ensures that the grantor's intentions and asset protection goals are maintained. 

Ideal situations for choosing an irrevocable trust:

If you have substantial assets, seek asset protection, and wish to minimize estate taxes, an irrevocable trust might be more suitable for you. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts

When choosing between a revocable and irrevocable trust, consider the following factors: 

  • Your financial situation: Take into account your current financial situation, including the value of your assets, income, and potential future growth. 

  • Tax implications: Consider the potential tax advantages or disadvantages of each trust. 

  • Desire for control over assets: If you want to maintain control over your assets, a revocable trust may be more suitable. 

  • Future plans and potential changes in circumstances: If you anticipate significant changes in your circumstances, the flexibility of a revocable trust might be beneficial. 

Helping You Build a Plan

Ultimately, the choice between a revocable and irrevocable trust depends largely on your individual circumstances and needs. At Bochnewich Law Offices, we're committed to guiding you through the process of estate planning. Contact us so we can help you understand your options and make informed decisions that best serve your interests and those of your loved ones.

We proudly serve clients in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and the rest of Southern California.