Trust Attorney – Brookfield, WI.

Serving Waukesha, Elm Grove, New Berlin, Pewaukee, & Lake Country.

Revocable Living Trusts

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”  Ben Franklin’s words still ring true.  A revocable living trust can help you plan for both.  While it is not enjoyable to contemplate our mortality, a comprehensive estate plan utilizing a revocable living trust is an estate planning tool that will allow you to secure your legacy, protect your assets and provide for your loved ones.

At Carroll Estate Planning LLC., we take time to help clients carefully and thoughtfully plan their trusts.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legally created fiduciary entity designed to hold and distribute assets on behalf of its beneficiaries. This definition may be confusing because of its breadth but that is the beauty of a trust, it can be arranged in a myriad of ways to accomplish a myriad of estate planning goals.

At Carroll Estate Planning LLC., we can help construct a Living Trust that fits your family’s needs.

Benefits Of A Trust

The power and flexibility of a revocable Living Trust is simply unmatched as an estate planning tool.  There is a common misconception that the trust as an estate planning tool is only for the extremely wealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth. A properly drafted trust can provide benefits to individuals and families of all income levels.  A trust can be used to protect and manage assets both before and after the death of the settlor, the person who sets up the living trust.  The benefits of trust include:

  • Avoiding a time-consuming, costly and public court probate
  • Control over management and distribution of assets during life and after death
  • Protecting beneficiaries from bad financial decisions
  • Reducing or eliminating gift and estate taxes

A Trust is only as effective as the details that go into it. Deciding to start & create a Trust is a smart first step to protect your family & assets. At Carroll Estate Planning LLC., we will listen to your wishes, analyze your family and financial situation and create a customized trust that will secure your legacy, protect your assets and provide for your loved ones.

Common Types of Trusts for Estate Planning

The flexibility of a trust instrument makes it almost impossible to list every potential application, the following are examples of the most commonly used trusts for estate planning purposes.

Revocable or Living Trust

A revocable or living trust is the most commonly used trust for estate planning purposes.  This type of trust accomplishes the popular estate planning goal of probate avoidance.  In Wisconsin, the person or persons making the trust are called “Settlors.” The Settlors transfer their assets to the trust. The Settlors are also most typically the initial “Trustees” of the trust. This means that they are responsible for management and distribution of the trust assets. The Settlors are also the primary beneficiaries of the trust during their lifetimes.

This means that if you establish a revocable trust for estate planning purposes, although your property is now technically owned and held by the trust, you have the same access and control over the trust assets that you would have if those assets where not held in trust. As it is revocable, the Settlors have the right to alter, change, modify or even revoke the trust during their joint lifetimes. The trust document then provides the framework of how the trust assets are managed and distributed after the death of the settlor or settlors. The trust would identify a successor trustee and provide specific direction to the trustee as to how and when the trust assets are to be distributed.

This is where the flexibility of a revocable trust really shines.  For example, if gift and estate tax planning is an issue, a joint revocable trust with a husband and wife as settlors can split into two trusts upon the death of the first spouse to maximize each spouse’s gift and estate tax exemption.  Another example is delayed distribution.  If children are the ultimate beneficiaries of trust assets, the settlors can create a trust where the successor trustee is required hold the assets in trust and distribute such assets only for the benefit of the children until they reach a certain age or ages.  This type of provision provides parents with piece of mind that a child will blow through their inheritance before they are old enough to have developed financial responsibility.

Special or Supplemental Needs Trust

The purpose of a special needs or supplemental needs trust is to provide for a physically or mentally disabled beneficiary without jeopardizing their entitlement to government benefits.  A special needs or supplemental needs trust provides for goods and services in addition to the primary support benefits provided by government programs.  Such life-enhancing benefits can include sophisticated medical, psychiatric or dental treatment, private rehabilitative care, transportation (including vehicle purchase), insurance, educational and vocational training, spending money, electronic and computer equipment, vacations, telephone and television expenses, payments for a companion, and other items to enhance self-esteem.

Irrevocable Trust

As its name makes clear, an irrevocable trust cannot be altered, changed, modified or revoked after its creation.  The primary reasons to create an irrevocable trust are advanced gift and estate tax planning, to become eligible for government assistance programs or to protect assets from future creditors.

Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is often established in a will.  This type of trust does not provide for probate avoidance.  It is typically used in situations where minor children are heirs and the primary goal is to avoid the need for a court appointed guardian of the assets inherited by minor children.


The following are frequently asked questions relating to revocable living trusts.  The answers to these questions may be very different for other types of trusts.

  1. What is the difference between a revocable living trust and a will?

Both trusts and wills provide for the distribution of assets after death.  However, a trust is different than a will in that it can also provide for management and distribution of trust income and assets of the settlor during their lifetime.  A trust also provides more control over when and how the assets are distributed to beneficiaries.  Possibly most importantly, a trust is a private fiduciary relationship that avoids the necessity of a court supervised probate which can be costly and time consuming.

  1. Can a Husband and Wife create a trust together?

Yes.  This is referred to as a Joint Revocable Living Trust.

  1. If I have a revocable living trust, Why Do I need A Will?

Your trust will only handle assets that are held in the name of the trust. If you forget to title assets in the name of your trust or there is money owed to your estate after your death, a will is necessary to transfer those assets to your trust. A will that bequeaths assets to a trust is referred to as a pour-over will.  Additionally, if you have minor children, a will is required to name the guardian who will be responsible for the care and welfare of your children after your death.

  1. Who can be named as trustee of a revocable living trust?

Typically, when you create a revocable living trust, you are also the initial trustee.  This means that during your life you will have total control over the property and assets held in trust.  You will also want to name a successor trustee who becomes responsible for management and distribution of trust assets if you become incapacitated or after you die.  Any competent adult can serve as trustee so many people name a trusted family member, relative or friend as a successor trustee.  You can also name an attorney, corporate trust department, bank or financial planner/brokerage company as trustee.

  1. Who can be a beneficiary of a revocable living trust?

When you set up a revocable living trust, typically, you are the settlor (trust creator), the initial trustee and the primary beneficiary of the trust. When a husband and wife create a joint revocable living trust, they are typically jointly the settlors, trustees and primary beneficiaries of the trust during their joint lifetime.  After the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse typically remains as the primary beneficiary of the trust.  You can name just about any individual or entity (such as a charity) as a beneficiary of trust assets after the death of the settlor(s).

  1. Can I change my revocable living trust?

Typically, your trust will provide you with the ability to alter, change, modify or even revoke the trust during your lifetime, provided you are competent to make such changes. The right to make changes include all aspects of the trust, including who is named as the successor trustee, who is a beneficiary and how and when assets are distributed to beneficiaries.  You can also add and remove property and assets from the trust as you see fit.

Contact Us