The Washington living trust is an estate-planning document used to dispose of one’s estate. Its principal advantage over a regular will is avoiding probate, providing guardianship planning, offering privacy, and allowing quicker and easier administration.
The creator of the trust is called the grantor or trustor and can be the trustee of his own trust as well as the primary beneficiary of the trust. Therefore, the same person can play three roles at one time: grantor, trustee, and beneficiary.
If the grantors are married, own everything jointly, and have less than a 5 million dollar estate, they will probably have one joint trust in which they serve as co-trustees. If they own assets separately, as can be the case in second marriages, or have an estate of over 5 million dollars, then two trusts should be considered.
Successor trustees are those chosen to manage the trust upon the incapacity of the grantor (creator). They can serve in first, second or third order or two can serve as successor co-trustees. Also, their function begins upon the death of the last grantor, at which time they would distribute the estate according to the instructions in the trust. Successor trustees can reside anywhere and do not have to be related.
The pour-over will is a document that “pours over” to the trust everything that is not in the trust upon the death of the creator of the trust. It is also a way to bequeath personal effects, if desired. It replaces any previous will, and, in fact, becomes the “Last Will.”
Schedule “A” is a list of all assets that have been transferred to the name of the trust. Its most useful purpose is to serve as an inventory list for the successor trustee.
Trusts have become a very popular way to plan one’s estate. The advantages over having a simple will are (1) avoiding probate, (2) avoiding guardianship problems, (3) obtaining privacy, and (4) providing for efficient administration of the estate.
Renée E. Stein is a general estate planning attorney whose experience includes Credit Shelter Trusts with estate tax concerns, and Special Needs Trusts for those who may need to protect the interests of a disabled beneficiary. Revocable Living Trusts, while not as necessary in Washington as in other states, are also available. No estate plan is complete without considering a Power of Attorney, a Healthcare Directive (Living Will) and Community Property Agreement (for married couples).