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Posted 01/25/2021 by Keystone Law Firm

What Is A Living Trust & Who Needs One?

What Is A Living Trust & Who Needs One?

This Is The Ultimate Guide To Arizona Revocable Living Trusts

Before I get to the first section, I want you to know why I created the “Simplest Answer” in the world.  I did it for the same reason that I take medicine for my thyroid.  Because I don’t know how my thyroid works.

My doctor explained it to me (somewhat).  I Googled it to learn more.  And even after some blood was taken from my arm, sent to a lab somewhere (who knows where), some “results” were sent back to my doctor, and my doctor told me that my thyroid levels were “off”, and I still didn’t REALLY understand exactly how my thyroid works.  

But I take a pill for my thyroid every day anyway.  It’s a very complicated chemical drug, in the form of a small pill that is apparently VERY sensitive to the wrong dose, so I have to make sure to let my doctor know if I feel heart palpitations.  And yet, I have no idea how this little pill works – and yet it makes me feel better.

I take the pill every day because I trust that my doctor is being truthful when she says it will make me healthier.

That’s why you deserve the “Simplest Answer” to this question.  Because too many lawyers have only given complicated, legal answers that don’t help you feel better to know that your family will be healthier.  If you are working with a lawyer you trust and who has every incentive to protect your family, you can just take the pill.


The Simplest Answer

A trust is the new and improved will.  It makes sure your financial life stays the same while you are alive and well, it makes sure someone you trust will take care of your finances if you become disabled, and it keeps the court from meddling in your stuff after you die.

You only need 3 minutes to create the simplest trust out there.  

You don’t need to think about these answers too much because you can change them anytime you want.  You should answer them based on where your life is NOW, not where you think your life will be in 5 or 10 years.  

Re-read that sentence.  

Then remind yourself of the probate pipeline problem with my industry.  

Now, back to the questions:

Answer these three questions:

  1. Who should make your medical decisions if you couldn’t?
  2. Who do you want in charge of distributing your inheritance?
  3. Who do you want them to distribute your stuff to?

Right now.  Answer them in your mind.  You can change your mind later.  If all you did was get this down on paper (legally, in a valid format), your loved ones would be 98% better off than where they are today.

That’s all a trust is.

You can stop reading here and get started.  

Or you can keep reading if you enjoy being the smartest person in the room.


Legally Speaking, A Revocable Living Trust Is An Agreement

A Revocable Living Trust is one type of trust which you create during your lifetime. It has also been called an Intervivos Trust. The fact that the trust is revocable means that it may be changed or terminated as you wish as long as you are competent.

At its foundation, a trust is an agreement between three parties: a trustmaker, a trustee, and the beneficiary.  


There Are 3 Parties To A Trust Agreement


The trustmaker is the person who gets to set up all the rules.  They get to decide who the trustee is, who the beneficiaries are, and how the trust property is to be managed or distributed by the trustee.

The trustee is the person responsible for following the rules setup by the trustmaker.  The trustee takes on ALL LIABILITY for doing the job correctly.  They can be sued by the trustmaker or by the beneficiaries for doing the job incorrectly.  The job can be summarized as having four stages: Authority, Inventory, Creditors, Distributions.  In a revocable living trust, this job may start while the trustmaker is still alive (to help pay their bills) and will continue until the trust is fully distributed.

The beneficiary is the party that gets all the benefits!  They are the lucky ones.  The beneficiaries don’t have to do anything, other than accept the benefits of the trust.  Sometimes the trustee will ask the beneficiaries to fill out forms, provide information, or sign documents, which is quite normal and is done usually to make sure the trustee is doing their job correctly.


A Revocable Living Trust Doesn’t Change How You Live Your Life

Establishing a revocable living trust does not change the way you manage your finances. Once you set it up and fund it with your money and property, you continue to live life like always.  You are in control of the trust.

All income generated by the trust will be paid to you as the lifetime beneficiary, and any principle it holds can be used by you. You hold all the control. Upon your death, the Revocable Living Trust will distribute pursuant to your distribution plan in a manner similar to a last will & testament. 

It is like a bucket, however.  Once you create a trust, you must fill it up.  So here are the major steps or phases of how a trust isset up:

  1. Create the trust.
  2. Transfer accounts, property, money, etc., into the trust name.
  3. Live your life, moving money in and out of the trust name.
  4. In a medical emergency, your chosen person will start helping you.
  5. After death, your chosen person will start to protect your estate and make the distributions.

One of the major benefits of having a Revocable Living Trust is that it allows you to avoid probate—both during life (in the form of a conservatorship) and after death (with a decedent’s estate). 

It will allow you to seamlessly manage your assets if you become incapacitated. The use of a Revocable Living Trust allows for property to be managed without interruption in the event of incapacity. Through proper planning and funding with a Revocable Living Trust, if you were to become incompetent, your Successor Trustee would be able to step in and manage all your financial affairs for any items already in the trust. This planning allows you to avoid the painful and very expensive process of having a conservator appointed. 

Another major benefit of the Revocable Living Trust is that it avoids probate after death. Please note that by doing a Revocable Living Trust you will not avoid all costs, as you will still have to pay legal fees for the drafting of the trust and other incidental expenses. However, the use of the trust will allow you to avoid many of the time delays and aggravations associated with the probate process. Further, if you have property in states other than Arizona it will also allow you to avoid probate in those states. Finally, some people like the privacy offered by a Revocable Living Trust versus the probate process. 

During your lifetime, as trustee and manager of the trust, all items placed in the trust will be taxed using your social security number. Therefore you will not see any change at all in how you prepare and file your annual tax returns. All income will be reported on your normal income tax return, just as it was before you set up the trust. Also note the trust will not affect estate or gift taxes. If this causes concern for you, advanced planning with your Revocable Living Trust will allow you to minimize your estate taxes, especially for a married couple taking advantage of the exemptions allowed by law. 

Generally, to amend, change or revoke your Revocable Living Trust, you must have the right papers prepared to avoid confusion and ensure the changes made flow with the rest of your plan. If you decide you want to change or revoke your trust, you should work with an attorney to make these changes or to properly revoke it.

Upon your death, your trust will become irrevocable, and may no longer be amended or changed. All of the assets in your trust will still be considered part of your estate for tax purposes, and the Successor Trustee will then take over duties and distribute the assets according to your particular estate plan. Please note: the Trustee may also be responsible for some miscellaneous tasks such as insuring a final tax return is prepared, and upon distribution of the trust that a final accounting has been done. It is a good idea for the Trustee at the time to contact your attorney to ensure that all things are properly concluded at your death.

Normally, a Revocable Living Trust is set up such that one person (or a married couple) will sit in all three of these positions in the beginning. You are the person who sets up the trust, you are the trustee who administers the trust during your lifetime, and you are the one who is paid the income and benefits as a beneficiary of the trust during your lifetime. 

As mentioned before, the Revocable Living Trust is only a part of your estate plan. You will still need a will, which is generally a Pour Over Will which acts as a safety net to pour anything that was not properly titled into the trust. Also, a Power of Attorney is still a very important document as it allows continued planning if you become incapacitated. It will also allow for the Power of Attorney to continue funding the trust if it is only partially funded when you become incapacitated. Finally, documents such as the Health Care Proxy and/or the Living Will are still important, as they are needed to handle your health care decisions.

Retitling property into the trust is a very important part of your estate plan. Without properly retitling the assets to the trust, you will not be able to avoid probate. In addition, if the property is not titled correctly, your estate plan may not function correctly. For example: let’s say you intend for a certain account to be distributed through the trust. However, it is still owned jointly when you pass away. That property will not be distributed pursuant to the trust, and will instead pass directly to the joint owner of the account.

So, to summarize, here are the major steps or phases of how a trust is set up:

  1. Create the trust.
  2. Transfer accounts, property, money, etc., into the trust name.
  3. Live your life, moving money in and out of the trust name.
  4. In a medical emergency, your chosen person will start helping you.
  5. After death, your chosen person will start to protect your estate and make the distributions.

Get started today!

Keystone Law Firm

2701 W. Queen Creek Rd. #3 

Chandler, AZ 85248 

(480) 418-8448 


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