A living trust holds assets that are managed by a trustee for intended beneficiaries. Also called a revocable trust, it differs from other trusts in that the trust creator, or grantor, can also serve as the trustee and can make changes to, or even revoke, the trust in its entirety during his lifetime. Living trusts are attractive because the grantor retains ultimate control over his assets while he is alive, but they are most commonly used to avoid probate.
How Living Trusts Avoid Probate
When a grantor creates a living trust, he funds the trust by titling assets to the trust. For example, if the grantor chooses to put his home in the trust, he must change the deed so that the trust is the named owner of the property. The same is true of bank accounts and other financial accounts, as well as titles to vehicles. Because the trust owns the property rather than the grantor, upon his death, the trust assets pass according to the terms of the trust, and probate is unnecessary. Trust funding is imperative because assets not titled to the trust may have to go through probate.
Either intentionally or unintentionally, a grantor may leave assets out of the trust. A pour-over will is often used in conjunction with a living trust, so that any assets left out of the trust “pour over” from the probate estate into the trust. In this case, the will must be probated so that probate assets can be titled to the trust upon the grantor’s death.