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A Living Trust also known as a “revocable living trust” is a trust that is: (1) created and operative during the settler’s lifetime; and (2) capable of being revoked by the settlor (the owner of property transferred to trust), acting without any other person’s consent. A revocable living trust is commonly referred to as a “revocable trust”, a “living trust”, a “family trust”, or an “inter vivo trust”. This article shall refer to “revocable living trusts as “living trusts”.

Living Trusts generally serve three main goals when created with other estate planning documents: (1) Avoiding probate; (2) Minimizing Federal Estate Taxes; and (3) Avoiding conservatorship in the event of incapacity.

There is an important difference between simple wills and trusts. A simple will is merely a set of instructions to the Probate Court as to how to distribute a decedent’s assets.

A Trust on the other hand is used to avoid the probate court proceedings. A Trust is usually prepared with a pour-over will that instructs the trustee/executor to pour any assets which may be left out of the Trust into the trust upon death. A common question is: why should I avoid probate? Probate is a court procedure whereby the Probate Court authorizes the transfer of property to the decedent’s heirs and loved ones upon death. Probate, like any other court proceeding, can be very costly to the estate and quite time consuming. For example, probate in Los Angeles County can take anywhere from one to five years depending on the complexity of the estate.

Many people are unaware of the costs of probate. The Probate Code has set the minimum costs of probate depending on the size of the estate and such fees are noted later in this article. The Probate court does not take into consideration the debts (e.g. mortgage) owed by the estate in calculating probate fees because such fees are calculated based on gross estate values.

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Shawn Rabban (310) 714-5616

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