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What is a living trust, and should I consider one in Texas?

Posted by Chris Peterson | Sep 22, 2023

Are you considering your options for estate planning? One crucial tool to explore is a living trust. In this blog post, we'll break down what a living trust is and help you determine if it's the right choice for your estate planning needs in Texas.

What is a Living Trust?

A living trust, also known as a revocable trust or inter vivos trust, is a legal entity that holds your assets during your lifetime and allows for the seamless transfer of those assets to your chosen beneficiaries upon your passing. Unlike a will, a living trust can avoid probate, which is the legal process of distributing a deceased person's assets. Probate can be time-consuming, costly, and public, making a living trust an attractive option for many individuals.

Here's how a living trust typically works:

  1. Creating the Trust: You, as the grantor, establish the trust by drafting a trust document, naming yourself as the trustee (the person who manages the trust assets during your lifetime), and specifying your beneficiaries.
  2. Funding the Trust: You transfer your assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property, into the trust's name. This process is called "funding" the trust.
  3. Management and Control: As the trustee, you retain full control over the trust assets, allowing you to buy, sell, or manage them as you see fit.
  4. Successor Trustee: In your trust document, you designate a successor trustee who will take over the management of the trust assets if you become incapacitated or pass away.
  5. Distribution of Assets: Upon your passing, the successor trustee takes over and distributes the assets to your beneficiaries according to your instructions, bypassing probate.

Should I Consider a Living Trust in Texas?

Now that you understand the basics of a living trust, let's delve into whether it's a suitable choice for you in the state of Texas.

Avoiding Probate: Unlike wills, living trusts are particularly beneficial for avoiding the probate process if the trust is funded completely. With married couples, a living trust will allow you to avoid probating after the first spouse's death and again after the surviving spouse's death, which can save a lot of time and expense.

Privacy Concerns: Unlike a will, which becomes a matter of public record during probate, a living trust offers privacy. Your estate details remain confidential, providing additional security for your beneficiaries.

Out-of-State Property: If you own real estate or assets in multiple states, a living trust can simplify the distribution process, as it avoids the need for probate in each state.

Incapacity Planning: Living trusts can also be useful for incapacity planning. If you become unable to manage your affairs due to illness or disability, the successor trustee can step in, ensuring your financial matters are handled according to your wishes.

Minor or Special Needs Beneficiaries: A living trust allows you to establish specific instructions for minor or special needs beneficiaries, providing ongoing financial support and management beyond your lifetime.

Estate Size: Living trusts are particularly beneficial for individuals with sizable estates. If your assets exceed a certain threshold, the potential cost and time savings of avoiding probate can be significant.Complex Family Situations: If you have a blended family, complex family dynamics, or concerns about potential disputes among beneficiaries, a living trust can help clarify your intentions and minimize conflicts.

Avoiding Ancillary Probate: If you own out-of-state real estate, a living trust can help you avoid ancillary probate, which is a secondary probate process required for out-of-state property. This can save time and money.

It's essential to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in Texas to evaluate your individual circumstances and determine if a living trust aligns with your goals and needs. They can guide you through the process, help you create a trust that suits your unique situation, and ensure it complies with Texas state laws.

In conclusion, a living trust can be a valuable tool for estate planning in Texas, offering benefits like probate avoidance, privacy, and flexibility. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution, and its suitability depends on your specific assets, family situation, and goals. Consider seeking professional advice to make an informed decision and secure the financial future of your loved ones in the Lone Star State.

About the Author

Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson is the owner of Peterson Law Group. He practices primarily in the areas of wills, trusts and estate planning; probate and trust administration; elder law; and business law. Chris is also the owner of Brazos 1031 Exchange Company.

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