top of page

Revocable and Irrevocable Living Trusts: Which One Should You Get?

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

What's The Difference Between The Two And Which One Best Suits You

A trust is a legal institution that holds assets on behalf of another. Living trusts are established to benefit the Trust creators (also known as "Settlors" or "Grantors") during their lives. Living trusts also specify how assets will be managed and distributed after the Grantors have died.

estate planning attorney near me

A living trust is a legal entity that you establish before you die. The property you transfer into the trust remains in the trust's ownership. You can continue to be the trustee and have authority over your assets until you pass away, at which point your assets are transferred to the named successor trustee. You can name a trustee to oversee the trust if you become incompetent, which you can do with a trust. In the case of your mental incapacity, a living trust allows you to administer your assets without needing a supervised conservatorship (e.g., stroke or dementia).

Because the trust controls the property, your assets are usually not subject to probate after you die. This procedure will save your beneficiaries a lot of time and money. It also helps to relieve stress while you're going through a difficult time.

A California Estate Attorney usually drafts a living trust. The assets are transferred into the Trust once the terms of the Trust have been formed. For example, if the Grantors own a home, the property will be lawfully transferred to the Trustee; the Grantors will sign a deed transferring the title to the Trustee and record the deed with the County Recorder's office. The Trust will also receive the Grantor's bank account(s) and other assets. The assets are subsequently legally transferred to the Trustee.


The Trust management is the Trustee. During their lifetimes, the Grantors of a Living Trust are usually the original Trustees. The Grantors/Trustees will be responsible for managing their own assets. The Grantors can also choose someone to handle the Trust's assets, such as a family member, a friend, or even a qualified fiduciary. The Trustees are the ones who make financial choices about the Trust's assets.

Beneficiaries of a Trust

The Trust beneficiaries are the individuals who profit from the Trust's assets. During their lifetimes, the Grantors are usually the original beneficiaries of their own assets. After the Grantors die away, the Grantors decide who will be the beneficiaries. The provisions of the Living Trust dictate how and when the assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries.

When the Grantors of a Living Trust die, the residual assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are usually the Grantors' children or relatives. In California, children do not have an automatic right to inherit their parent's possessions unless a parent dies without a Will or Trust. A trust can be established to assist whoever the Grantor wishes to benefit from his or her assets.

After the Grantors die away, the Successor Trustee is the person who manages the Trust assets. The Successor Trustee is thereafter responsible for adhering to the Trust's provisions and managing the Trust's assets. This may entail selling the assets and promptly dispersing the cash to the beneficiaries. Some trusts are set up to pay the beneficiaries in installments throughout the course of their lives. The Trust's terms determine how the assets are dispersed to the beneficiaries. The assets are eventually divided among the beneficiaries, and the Trust ends.

Wills vs. Trusts

A Living Trust is also known as a Family Trust, a Revocable Trust, or a Revocable Living Trust — all of these terms refer to the same legal form. One of the primary differences between a basic Will and a Living Trust is that a properly funded trust can avoid probate, whereas a simple Will requires any estate valued over $150,000 to be lodged with the probate court.

You are the trustee in charge of the assets in your trust during your lifetime. Your Trust becomes an irreversible trust after you die and cannot be modified. Any power of attorney you've issued to someone else is no longer valid. After that, the successor trustee you've named will have sole authority over your trust estate.

You might wonder who a trustee is in a trust and what a trustee does. You are both the Settlor (also known as a Trustor) and the initial trustee when you create your own Trust. If you're married, you and your spouse are both Settlors and Trustees, and you have control over the trust estate or estates. When the last of the Settlors dies, the Trust names a successor trustee or trustees who will transfer the property held in the trust to the beneficiaries and keep track of the trust.

If you want your Trust to be distributed over time or under particular conditions, you can include testamentary provisions in the Trust text. Many successor trustees benefit from one of our Estate Attorneys' legal guidance, statutory notices, accounting, and distribution and sale of trust assets.

california probate attorney

The benefit of drafting a Living Trust with a pour-over Will (the pour-over Will stipulates that all assets pour over into the Trust at the time of your death) rather than a simple Will without a Trust is that there is no need for probate if the estate property has been properly funded into the Trust. The Trust does not accept contributions from retirement funds. It's critical to understand how to properly fund a Trust.

If, however, all of the assets, such as real estate, were not listed as Trust assets as of the date of death, your Estate Attorney can file a Heggstad petition with the probate court, requesting that those omitted assets be included as trust property as if they had been in your Trust previous to your death.

What is the definition of a Will?

If you decide that a basic Will, rather than a Living Trust, is what you desire, you'll need to know how to write a Will to provide for your heirs. Creating a Last Will and Testament without the assistance of a CA Estate Attorney might be difficult. A holographic Will is handwritten, must be dated and signed, and must be proven to have been written by you in probate court after your death. Form Wills can also be problematic, as beneficiaries can contest them based on technical concerns or phrase interpretation.

If you have minor children, a Last Will and Testament allows you to name a guardian for them. If you wish to keep your family members out of your estate, you'll need a Will or a Trust so that the California probate statute doesn't divide your intestate estate among all of your relatives. Similarly, if you wish to donate a portion of your assets to charity or require a special needs trust, you must include it in your estate plan.

If you have less than $150,000 in assets, a simple Will rather than a Trust may be sufficient.

A pour-over Will is a Will that is prepared with a Trust, which stipulates that all of the assets pour over into the Trust, which has distributive provisions, whereas a simple Will provides the gifts to the beneficiaries.

Why Do I Need a Will & Trust?

Trusts can assist you in managing your wealth, protecting your legacy, maintaining your privacy, and reducing the need for probate. The main advantage for most families is the avoidance of probate. When you die, your family is usually required to open an estate in probate court. The executor must next follow a set of stringent processes regarding your assets, debts, and heirs. The probate process is often time-consuming and costly and can lead to disagreements among your heirs. Fortunately, trusts and a well-crafted estate plan can help you avoid or minimize probate.

While you can find internet forms that claim to help you create trusts, it's nearly always advisable to consult with an Estate Lawyer. The laws governing trusts and estates vary by state, and your situation is unique. An online form will not be able to determine your specific requirements or assure compliance with California legislation. Your loved ones may endure needless problems and costs if your trust is incorrectly structured. Working closely with an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer might help you prevent these problems.

When you die, a will does not protect you from probate. On the other hand, a will ensures that your family will be subjected to the costs, fees, and delays involved with probate. Before a will may be enforced, it must be validated by the court in probate court.

A will can also only take effect after you pass away. As a result, it offers no protection if you become physically or mentally handicapped. As a result, the court might easily seize your assets before you die. Millions of senior citizens and their families are concerned about this. Fortunately, a revocable living trust is a simple and effective alternative to a will.

Probate is avoided with a revocable living trust. It allows you to preserve control of your assets while you are alive and after you die, even if you become handicapped.

What's Wrong With Probate?

It can be quite costly. Before your assets may be fully distributed to your heirs, legal fees, executor fees, and other expenditures must be paid. If you possess property in other states, your family may be subjected to multiple probates, each governed by the laws of the state in question. These prices can vary greatly.

Probate takes a lengthy time, usually between nine months and two years, although it can take much longer. Assets are normally frozen for a portion of this period, so an accurate inventory can be taken. Nothing can be distributed or sold without the permission of the court and/or the executor.

If your family requires financial assistance, they must apply for a living allowance. The court may deny this request.

Probate is a procedure that is open to the public. Any "interested party" can know what you own, who you owe money to, who will get your assets, and when they will get them. Disgruntled heirs may be encouraged to fight your will, and your family may be exposed to unscrupulous solicitors.

In most cases, your family has no say in the probate process. The court procedure dictates how much it will cost, how long it will take, and what information will be made available to the public.

Is Joint Tenancy a Good Way to Avoid Probate?

Not at all. Probate is usually only postponed when the shared tenancy is used. When one of the owners of a jointly owned asset dies, full ownership passes to the surviving owner without the need for probate. However, if that owner dies without naming a new joint owner or if both owners die simultaneously, the asset must be probated before being distributed to the heirs.

Keep an eye out for other issues. You raise your chances of getting identified in a lawsuit and losing the asset to a creditor when you add a co-owner. There could be issues with gifts and/or income taxes.

Because a will does not control most jointly owned assets, you may unintentionally disinherit family members. All owners must sign to sell or refinance some assets, particularly real estate. So, if one of your co-owners becomes incapable, you may find yourself with a new "co-owner" in the form of the court, even if the incompetent owner is your husband.

When I'm incapacitated, why does the court become involved?

Only a court-appointed representative can sign for you if you cannot conduct business owing to a mental or physical disability. This is true even if you have a will and co-own your home with your spouse. Remember, it only takes effect when you pass away.

Once the court becomes engaged, it usually remains so until you recover or pass away. The court will utilize your assets to care for you, not your family. The "living probate" procedure can be costly, humiliating, time-consuming, and difficult to complete. It's also open to the public! Because it does not take the place of probate at death, your family may have to undergo the process twice.

How to Decide Between a Revocable and an Irrevocable Trust?

Creating a trust, whether revocable or irrevocable, is usually strongly advised and seen as a prudent strategy for planning for your estate and loved ones. Knowing which form of trust is right for you, on the other hand, can be difficult. When considering the creation of a trust, you should speak with a financial professional who can help you estimate the total value of your estate, as well as an Estate Planning Attorney who can advise you on the different types of trusts, how to construct a trust, and numerous issues that are unique to your circumstance.

Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

Why Should You Get A Revocable Living Trust?

Trusts are used to leave assets to loved ones, avoid probate, reduce taxes (depending on the type of trust), and avoid obligations, among other things. Some of these benefits are available through revocable living trusts. The following are some of the main advantages of establishing a revocable living trust:

  • Probate is avoided. The estate they leave behind must go through the probate court system when someone dies. During probate, all of the estate's assets are inventoried, creditors are paid, and assets are divided to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or California intestate succession rules if no will exists. The procedure might be lengthy and meticulous. However, assets that are held in a trust are not subject to the probate process. Assets held in a trust are available at the moment of the grantor's death because there is no need to wait for the probate procedure to finish.

  • Flexibility. One of the most significant advantages of a revocable living trust over an irrevocable one is the management flexibility the former affords. Making modifications to a revocable trust is simple and maybe even easier than making changes to a will. The grantor of a revocable trust can amend the trust's provisions, move assets in and out of the trust, and amend the trust's directions. Furthermore, a revocable trust can be used to appoint a range of people, including non-related and out-of-state individuals, to be in charge of property administration after a person's death.

What Can a Revocable Living Trust Do to Protect Minor Children and Other Beneficiaries' Interests?

A revocable living trust allows you to choose who will inherit your assets after you die and how and when they will be distributed.

Some beneficiaries may be small children or others who are not well-suited to receive their inheritance all at once at the time of your death. For example, a minor child or even a young adult may not be responsible enough to accept and manage a big bequest. Other beneficiaries may have significant debts, and creditors may take their inheritance immediately if they die. Finally, some beneficiaries may be eligible for government subsidies, which an outright inheritance could jeopardize.

A revocable living trust can direct that particular beneficiaries receive their inheritance in a trust, which the trustee will administer for the beneficiary's health, education, maintenance, and support. Where appropriate, some or all of the beneficiary's share may be held in trust until they reach a specific age, such as 30 or 35, or even for the remainder of their life.

What Can a Revocable Living Trust Do to Prevent Estate Disputes?

Wills, even the most carefully designed and executed ones, can lead to estate disputes. This can take a lot of time and money and generate a lot of stress. Although there's really no way to guarantee that a living trust will not be challenged, such challenges are significantly less common and generally unsuccessful. Contesting a trust requires more money and time, which deters many people from doing so. Furthermore, the formalities of creating, executing, and funding a trust with the counsel, advice, and aid of an Estate Attorney make it significantly more difficult for a contender to claim that the trustors did not intend for the trust to be created or that the conditions are not what the trustors wanted.

How Can a Revocable Living Trust Prevent Conservatorships?

A conservatorship is a legal process in which a person, known as a conservator, is appointed to manage the affairs of someone who has become mentally ill. The judicial process for appointing a conservator is expensive and time-consuming.

On the other hand, a properly formed and executed revocable living trust eliminates the need for a conservatorship by selecting a successor trustee to manage one's affairs. There is no need for a court to intervene and appoint a conservator in most revocable living trusts. If you become incompetent, the successor trustee will take over and will have the ability to use assets to your and your beneficiaries' advantage. Furthermore, an advanced health care directive ensures that if you become incapacitated, you will have someone to make medical decisions for you.

How Does a Revocable Living Trust Protect Your Personal Information?

Because a trust does not require the consent of a court, it may be possible to skip probate altogether. Because probate is a public process, anyone can learn what you possess and how much it's worth. Many people do not want the general public to know about this. Thus a revocable living trust protects your and your family's privacy.

Beneficiaries have very limited recourse if you designate a trustee, and the trustee is not required to publicly expose information about the trust to creditors. Only the people you've chosen to have access to your trust can see it.

When compared to irrevocable living trusts, do revocable living trusts have any disadvantages?

While revocable living trusts are generally preferable to irrevocable trusts because of the freedom they allow the grantor, such as the option to terminate or change the trust, revocable trusts have some disadvantages compared to irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust, for example, will not provide the same tax benefits as an irrevocable living trust. When assets are placed in an irrevocable trust, the grantor relinquishes control of those assets and is thus exempt from paying estate taxes on those assets; this is not the case with revocable trusts.

Revocable trusts are also more expensive to set up than irrevocable trusts, and they necessitate the re-titling of any assets held in the trust to escape the probate procedure. Assets are maintained in a revocable trust, and the grantor's estate must be examined regularly to ensure that the trust's objectives are met. Furthermore, there are no liability protections connected with a revocable trust - a creditor and a court, in the case of a legal settlement, can still access assets held in a revocable trust.

Finally, remember that establishing a revocable living trust alone is not enough to consider your estate plan accomplished. A final will and testament and a range of other estate planning papers, such as a living will, powers of attorney, and so on, should be created to address how property should be divided upon your death.

Why Should You Get A Irrevocable Living Trust?

As its name implies, an irrevocable trust is not revocable - it cannot be revoked. This means that once the grantor has established the trust, the conditions of the trust, including the assets held within the trust and the beneficiaries of the trust, cannot be changed or revoked.

After the trust is established, the grantor relinquishes all ownership rights to the assets and the trust. (On the other hand, in a revocable trust, the grantor retains some control over the trust and reserves the power to change or revoke it.) Irrevocable trusts are divided into two categories:

  • Living trusts. A "living" trust is established and paid while the grantor is still alive. Lifetime giving trusts, charity trusts, and spousal lifetime access trusts are all examples of living trusts.

  • Testamentary trusts. Testamentary trusts, on the other hand, are established and supported after the grantor's death through the grantor's will and estate. These forms of trust are, therefore, essentially irrevocable due to the grantor's death.

living trust attorney los angeles

Irrevocable trusts have a number of benefits

Why would a grantor want to be able to change or cancel a trust during their lifetime? The benefits of creating an irrevocable trust instead of a revocable trust may not be immediately apparent.

The fundamental reason that grantors select irrevocable trusts over revocable ones is that when the grantor relinquishes control of the trust, they benefit immediately from a lower estate tax obligation because assets gifted in an irrevocable trust are not subject to estate taxes. Another advantage of establishing an irrevocable living trust and relinquishing ownership of certain assets is the security it provides against litigation and judgments.

Assets maintained in an irrevocable trust cannot be withdrawn to resolve a dispute or by a court decision if a grantor is sued (which is more probable among certain professionals, such as doctors). As a result, putting assets in an irrevocable trust can secure them and ensure that they stay in the family or are dispersed according to the grantor's wishes.

Irrevocable Living Trusts and California Laws

Despite the name and general criteria governing irrevocable trusts, they can be altered or canceled in California under specific conditions. "If all beneficiaries of an irrevocable trust consent, they may petition the court for modification or termination of the trust," according to California Probate Code Section 15403.

Unless there is a "material purpose of the trust" that makes its continuation important and such material purpose outweighs the beneficiaries' interests in canceling/amending the trust, the court will grant the cancellation or modification of the trust if all beneficiaries agree.

Another instance in which a trust can be amended or canceled is if a major change in circumstances defeats or undermines the principal purposes for which the trust was created. Following a significant change in circumstances, an irrevocable trust can be amended, provided the grantor can demonstrate that the revision will further the grantor's original aim in forming the trust.

What Are the Different Types of Irrevocable Living Trusts?

Reducing Taxes

Irrevocable living trusts are used to cut taxes in the following ways:

  • Bypass Trusts

Spouses frequently create bypass trusts to reduce estate taxes after both have passed away. The other spouse can use the trust property after one spouse dies, but he or she does not own any of it. When the assets are dispersed to recipients, they will be free of estate taxes.

  • QTIP Trusts

Couples create QTIP Trusts to defer paying estate taxes until the surviving spouse dies away.

  • QDOT Trusts

When one of the spouses is not a citizen, QDOT Trusts are used similarly to QTIP Trusts.

  • Charitable Trusts

Charitable trusts give assets to a charitable organization in exchange for a reduction in income and estate taxes. They can be set up to provide income to a charity for a period of time. They can also name the charity as the trust's final beneficiary.

  • Generation-Skipping Trusts

Wealthy families utilize Generation-Skipping Trusts to reduce their estate taxes. A grandchild is named as the last beneficiary, and a child is named as an income beneficiary with no ownership rights.

  • Trusts for Life Insurance

Life Insurance Trusts hold your life insurance policies and keep the proceeds out of your estate during your lifetime. Only if the trust owns the policy for at least three years before you die will the tax benefits be achieved.

  • Grantor-Retained Interest Trusts (GRITs)

Grantor-Retained Interest Trusts allow you to invest assets and collect income from them for a period of time. They can be set up to give you a fixed or variable annuity and the ability to reside in trust property. The recipients own the property once the specified period has passed. However, their contribution will be taxed at a value determined when the trust is established.

Protecting Your Assets

To safeguard property from creditors and assist loved ones with special needs, irrevocable living trusts are created in the following two ways:

  • Trusts for Spendthrifts

Spendthrift Trusts prevent assets from being squandered by beneficiaries who are incapable of prudent financial management. The recipient cannot access the trust since the trustee controls it. The assets of the trust are thus protected from the beneficiary's creditors.

  • Special needs trusts

Special needs trusts protect the assets of disabled people with special needs. It allows people to receive financial assistance without risking their government benefits. The trustee can spend trust funds on specific products and services. On the other hand, the beneficiary never owns anything in the trust. As a result, it is not considered when they seek government assistance.

In California, how are irrevocable living trusts handled?

In three areas, California law differs from that of other jurisdictions when it comes to irrevocable living trusts:

  • Interests are divided

Split-interest trusts, which provide income to separate beneficiaries at different times, are legal in California. A benevolent remainder trust, for example, gives the grantor or a family member an annual income for a period of time. The property left in the trust after the time period has expired is transferred to a charity beneficiary.

  • Modifications

Under certain situations, California law allows irrevocable living trusts to be modified. You can, for example, alter the trust to name a trust protector with limited management authority. An independent fiduciary agent, such as an accountant or attorney, is frequently used in this role. Irrevocable living trusts can also be modified under California law if the beneficiaries agree and petition the court. These trusts can also be updated to conform to changing tax legislation.

Find A Trust Lawyer in California is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a fitting Estate Attorney to handle your claims. You can contact us through our 24/7 Live Chat (or complete our submission form) for a free initial case review.

Best Lawyers Near Los Angeles

California State Bar Certified Lawyer Referral And Information Service

Welcome to, a Lawyer Referral and Information Service certified and approved by the California State Bar.

"Our commitment is to provide you with unbiased and impartial lawyer referrals."


Unlike other services, we maintain complete independence from the lawyers receiving these referrals, ensuring transparency and fairness.

While we specialize in California employment law and personal injury claims, we offer our referral services for various other legal areas.


At, we aim to ensure you are connected with best California attorney near you who can provide comprehensive and exceptional representation for your specific legal needs.


We understand that every legal situation is unique and are dedicated to finding the best match for you.


With our extensive network of attorneys, we strive to deliver outstanding legal support and guidance tailored to your individual requirements.

At, we hold California attorneys to the highest standards of professional conduct.


Your satisfaction and confidence in the legal representation you receive are paramount to us.


Rest assured that when you engage in our services, you can expect nothing less than exceptional legal support and guidance.

Why Lawyer Referrals Matter


The California State Bar investigates on average 16,000 complaints of professional misconduct by attorneys annually.

We conduct due diligence by researching and recommending the best local attorney for your case. 


Our team of experts verifies that attorneys are in good standing and have the required experience in the type of law related to your legal issue. 

Learn more about attorney discipline here.


Our History 


Since 2005, we have been dedicated to helping individuals find reliable legal representation in California.


We understand the challenges people face when trying to locate reputable lawyers, especially when inundated with self-promoting advertisements and biased marketing from law firms.


At our service, we strive to cut through the noise and provide a trustworthy and unbiased platform for connecting individuals with reputable California lawyers.


Our clients receive quality legal representation without the frustration and uncertainty often associated with legal advertising.

How the LRS Works 

Anyone seeking competent and honest legal representation in California, can request a FREE lawyer referral. 

Once you submit your case details online, our legal 24-hour legal department will review your claim and reply via email. Most cases are reviewed and answered within 15 minutes. 


A free 30 minute consultation with the attorney will be offered to each referred client. 

A representative will follow up a few days later via email with the client after receiving a referral for quality management purposes, or to obtain the status of the case. 

About lawyers from our network

California lawyers in our network are insured, in good standing with the California State Bar, and have substantial experience in their practice area.


Attorneys are available in most areas of law throughout Southern California. Every lawyer in or network has been vetted for:

  • Credentials

  • Education

  • Communication skills

  • Performance

  • Client reviews

  • Fair legal fees

  • Continuing education

  • Professional affiliations

Additionally, we conduct criminal  background checks and attorneys are always monitored by our service.  

How to find the best lawyer for your legal case: 

1. The fastest way to have your legal issue reviewed by one of our attorneys is to send your details online.


Your information will go directly to our 24 hour legal department bypassing our call center. You will get a reply via email within 15 minutes. 

2. You may also inquire about your legal issue via email. We respond to email inquiries within 24 hours M-F. 

3. By calling our lawyer referral hotline 661-310-7999. However, our agents are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. Due to high call volumes, it's highly recommended that you use option # 1 above. 


Simple Retro Handyman Service Badge Logo-2.png
bottom of page