Revocable vs. Irrevocable Trusts: Key Differences Explained by a Santa Barbara County Trust Attorney

Santa Barbara County trust attorney

When it comes to estate planning, understanding the different types of trusts available is crucial. Two common types are revocable and irrevocable trusts, each with its own set of features and benefits. As a Santa Barbara County trust attorney, I often encounter questions about the differences between these two types of trusts and which one might be the best fit for a particular estate plan.

 What is a Revocable Trust?

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, is a flexible estate planning tool. The grantor – the person who creates the trust – retains the ability to modify or completely revoke the trust at any time during their lifetime. This flexibility allows for adjustments as life circumstances or estate planning goals change.

Benefits of a Revocable Trust

The main benefits of a revocable trust include:

  • Privacy: Unlike a will, a revocable trust is not a public record. It allows for a more private distribution of assets.
  • Probate Avoidance: Assets held in a revocable trust bypass the probate process, facilitating a smoother and quicker transfer to beneficiaries.
  • Control Over Assets: The grantor maintains control over the assets in the trust and can make changes as needed.

Upon the death of the grantor, a revocable trust typically becomes irrevocable, meaning it can no longer be changed.

What is an Irrevocable Trust?

An irrevocable trust, once established, generally cannot be altered or revoked. The grantor transfers assets into the trust, relinquishing control and ownership. This transfer is permanent, and the grantor typically cannot reclaim the assets or change the terms of the trust.

Benefits of an Irrevocable Trust

Key benefits include:

  • Tax Advantages: An irrevocable trust can provide significant tax benefits, including estate tax reductions and income tax advantages.
  • Asset Protection: Assets in an irrevocable trust are generally protected from creditors and legal judgments against the grantor.
  • Medi-Cal Planning: Properly structured irrevocable trusts can help in planning for Medi-Cal eligibility, as assets in the trust may not be counted against the grantor’s assets.

Choosing the Right Trust for Your Needs

Deciding whether a revocable or irrevocable trust is right for you depends on your individual circumstances, financial goals, and estate planning objectives. Factors such as the desire for flexibility, tax considerations, and asset protection needs all play a role in this decision.

Getting Help

Revocable and irrevocable trusts serve different purposes in estate planning. Understanding these differences is key to making an informed decision about which trust suits your needs best.

Whether you’re considering a revocable trust for flexibility or an irrevocable trust for asset protection and tax benefits, our Santa Barbara County trust attorneys are here to guide you. Contact us at 805-946-1550 to discuss your estate planning needs and determine the best trust strategy for your situation.


Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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