Attorney F.W. O'Connor of CT

The Law Office of F. William O'Connor, LLC

P.O. Box 1224
20 East Main Street
Avon, CT 06001-1224

Telephone: 860.677.2254
Fax: 860.676.8912



The document offered below is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. With respect to any specific issue or problem, you should contact an attorney for advice. Thank you.

-- F.William O'Connor, Attorney at Law


What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A trust is an agreement that determines how a person's property is to be managed and distributed during his or her lifetime and also upon death. A revocable living trust involves three parties:

The Grantor. This is the person who creates the trust, and usually the only person who provides funding for the trust. More than one person can be the Grantors of a trust, such as when a husband and wife join together to create a family trust.

The Trustee. This is the person who holds title to the trust property and manages it according to the terms of the trust. The Grantor often serves as trustee during his or her lifetime, and another person or a corporate trust company is named to serve as successor trustee after the Grantor's death or in the event the Grantor is unable to continue serving for any reason.

The Beneficiary. This is the person or persons who will receive the income or principal from the trust. This can be the Grantor (and the Grantor's spouse) during his or her lifetime and the Grantor's children (or anyone else the Grantor chooses to name) after the Grantor's death.

A trust is classified as a "living" trust when it is established during the Grantor's lifetime and as a "revocable" trust when the Grantor has reserved the right to amend or revoke the trust during his or her lifetime.

Changing or Revoking a Revocable Living Trust

The Grantor ordinarily reserves the right in the trust document to amend or revoke the trust at any time during his or her lifetime. This enables the Grantor to revise the trust (or even terminate the trust) to take into account any change of circumstances such as marriage, divorce, death, disability or even a "change of mind." It also affords the Grantor the peace of mind that he can "undo" what he has done. Upon the death of the Grantor, most revocable living trusts become irrevocable and no changes are then allowed.

Is a Revocable Living Trust a Substitute for a Will?

Typically no. Despite a revocable living trust acting as the principal estate planning document, a Will normally is drafted with a Revocable Living Trust. This type of Will, is often referred to as a "pour over" Will, names the Revocable Living Trust as the principal beneficiary. Thus, any property which the Grantor failed to transfer to the trust during his or her lifetime is added to the trust upon the Grantor's death and distributed to (or held for the benefit of) the beneficiary in accordance with the terms of the revocable living trust.

Occasionally not all property will be transferred to a revocable living trust during the Grantor's lifetime. Any probate property owned by the decedent at the time of his or her death and not in the trust at the time of death will need to be probated. Without a will, the proceeds would be distributed to the heirs under the laws of intestate in Connecticut.

Also, a parent cannot appoint a guardian for minor children in a revocable living trust. This can be accomplished only in the will.

What are the Advantages of a Revocable Living Trust?

In addition to the savings the administrate costs of the various probate filings, probate avoidance has other advantages. The administration of a revocable living trust at the Grantor's death is normally a private matter between the Trustee and the beneficiaries. Unlike probate, there are few public records to reveal the nature, assets or the identity of the beneficiary.

Property can often be distributed to the beneficiaries shortly after the Grantor's death, avoiding much of the delay encountered with probate administration. Also, probate court approval is not necessary to sell an asset in a trust, thus avoiding further delay. Keep in mind that the Trustee has a fiduciary liability to the trust and can be held personally liable for trust distributions that occur prematurely.

In addition to the avoidance of probate administration, a Revocable Trust can avoid "ancillary probate administration” in other states where real estate is owned by transferring the out-of-state real estate to a Revocable Living Trust.

If the Grantor becomes physically or mentally incapacitated, property transferred into the trust remains available to the Grantor without the requirement of a court supervised guardianship or conservatorship. The successor trustee named in the trust document takes charge to manage the assets in the trust and pay the Grantor's bills.

The successor trustee can be a trusted friend or relative or a professional trustee such as a trust company or a bank. Since the activities of the successor trustee are not ordinarily supervised by a court or other independent third party, the selection of the successor trustee should be carefully considered.

What are Some Disadvantages of a Revocable Living Trust?

While the advantages of a revocable living trust receive most of the public attention, the disadvantages should also be considered.

Since a revocable living trust is a more complex legal document, it is often more costly to establish. Also, deeds and other transfer documents must be prepared transferring the Grantor's assets to the trust, a process which can require a substantial investment of the Grantor's time and money.

The use of a revocable living trust requires more ongoing monitoring to ensure that assets remain in the trust and that newly purchased assets are titled in the trust.
After the Grantor's death, some of the income tax rules applicable to a trust are not as liberal as those available to a probate estate. For example, a probate estate may elect to use a fiscal year as its tax year, while a trust is restricted to the calendar year. Trusts must pay estimated income tax payments while a probate estate is exempt from this requirement for the first two years. Trusts are also subject to other tax rules that do not apply to probate estates.

Will a Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate Expenses?

Property held in a revocable living trust at the time of the Grantor's death is not subject to probate administration. Thus, the value of the property is not considered when computing the statutory fee for the personal representative or the estate attorney. Also, the amount of any required bond for the personal representative will be reduced to the extent the property is held in the trust and not subject to probate administration.

Nevertheless, certain expenses associated with the death of a person are not eliminated. Deeds to real estate transferring the property from the trust to the beneficiaries must be prepared. Estate tax returns must be filed when the total value of the property owned at death (including assets in a revocable living trust) exceeds $1.5 million in value (or a lesser value in certain cases). The decedent's final income tax returns must still be filed and income tax returns for the trust must also be filed.

Does the Revocable Living Trust Reduce Income or Estate Taxes?

No. During the Grantor's lifetime, the revocable living trust has no effect on the income tax which the Grantor will owe. In fact, if the Grantor is the trustee or a co-trustee, all income earned on assets held in the trust is reported directly on the Grantor's income tax return and the trust is not required to file a return. After the Grantor's death, the trust is taxed at the same rate as a probate estate. However, as mentioned above, a probate estate may enjoy certain relatively minor income tax advantages.

Proper planning can often reduce the amount of estate tax payable upon the Grantor's death. For the most part, estate tax planning can be equally accomplished through proper drafting in either a will or a revocable living trust.


A Grantor desiring to manage his or her own financial affairs and who is physically and mentally capable normally serves as the initial trustee. Provisions for subsequent Trustees are normally provided for successor trustee to take charge in the event the Grantor becomes unable to continue for any reason or in the event of the Grantor's death. Sometimes the Grantor may simply desire to be relieved of asset management responsibilities and hand these tasks over to the trustee.


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