Can a Revocable Trust Be Changed With a Will?

By Teo Spengler

A revocable trust, or living trust, is an estate planning device that allows you to manage your property while you are alive and after your death. It is effective immediately after you execute it, and you can amend the trust during your lifetime. However, it becomes irrevocable at death. Although a will can add additional assets to the trust, it cannot dispose of the assets already in the trust or alter any trust provisions.

A revocable trust, or living trust, is an estate planning device that allows you to manage your property while you are alive and after your death. It is effective immediately after you execute it, and you can amend the trust during your lifetime. However, it becomes irrevocable at death. Although a will can add additional assets to the trust, it cannot dispose of the assets already in the trust or alter any trust provisions.

Parties to Trust

A living trust involves three parties: the grantor, who sets up and funds the trust; the trustee, who manages the trust assets; and the beneficiary, who gets use of the trust interest or assets. Generally, the person setting up the trust plays all three roles during her lifetime. In the trust document, the grantor names successors to manage and benefit from the trust after her death. She can amend any terms of the trust during her lifetime, but a will cannot be used to do so.

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Role of Will

A revocable trust does not make a will unnecessary. If a grantor has assets that she neglected to add to the trust during her lifetime, a “pour over” will, which names the trust as beneficiary, transfers that property to the trust upon death. However, all assets transferred to a trust during the grantor's lifetime are trust property at her death. They cannot be bequeathed by the terms of a will, even if the will was executed after the trust.

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How to Terminate a Living Trust

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Does a Will Supersede a Trust?

A will and a trust are separate legal documents that commonly work together under a unified estate plan. While the will and trust ideally work together, because they are separate documents, they sometimes conflict with one another, either intentionally or accidentally. Whether a will supersedes a conflicting trust generally depends on the type of trust involved and timing of respective transfers under the will and trust. A living trust generally supersedes a will, but a will generally supersedes a testamentary trust.

The Difference Between a Grantor & a Beneficiary

Grantor is the legal term for a person who creates a trust, and beneficiaries are people named by the grantor to benefit from the trust by receiving the trust's property. The legal terms "grantor," "settlor," and "creator" have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably. A grantor and beneficiary have different roles in a trust, but either may serve as trustee of the trust. Although the grantor establishes a trust and may have the authority to change it, beneficiaries also have authority to amend or revoke the trust and take legal action to protect the trust in certain circumstances.

How Does a Living Trust Protect Assets?

Creating a trust to holds assets can help the grantor while he is alive and continue to serve him after his death. A living trust is created during the grantor's lifetime. It transfers title (ownership) of the grantor's property into the trust to be managed by a trustee for the benefit of a designated beneficiary. There are different types of living trusts and each can protect assets in a different way -- or not at all.

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