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Estate Planning – Do I Need a Revocable Living Trust?

Posted on December 13, 2023 by Amanda Whitely

One of the most common questions we hear from our clients is “do I need a revocable living trust?”  While in some states a revocable living trust is a vital component of any estate plan due to those state’s probate laws, Washington has very friendly probate laws and a revocable living trust is generally not necessary except in certain situations.

A revocable living trust (“RLT”) is a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) replacement. It is a mechanism for your assets to pass outside of probate.  A common reason for having an RLT is to avoid probate, since a Will must be probated.  However, in Washington, unlike most states, probate is relatively inexpensive and straightforward.  Our court systems typically grant non-intervention powers to the personal representative which allows the estate to be administered with minimal involvement from the court system.  In comparison, some states require significant court involvement in the probate process which increases the overall cost and is time-consuming.  Additionally, the probate process is similar to the trust administration that would occur with an RLT.  In this respect, the time and cost involved in a probate administration is comparable to that of a trust administration.

As such, in a typical estate plan for a Washington resident there is little need for a revocable living trust.

However, there are a few circumstances in which it would be recommended to establish a revocable living trust:

  • Confidentiality: Within 30 days of death, the original Will is required to be filed with the court and it becomes a part of the public record.  For most people, this is not an issue, but if you are a celebrity or just well known in the community, you may not want people to be able to see the details of how your assets will be distributed.  In many cases, it is the news media that will want to find these details out so it can make news with the disposition of those assets. In this case, an RLT is appropriate because the trust agreement with all the details of the estate is not filed with the court and none of the details regarding the estate will become a part of the public record.
  • Out of State Property: Out of state real property is subject to an ancillary probate in the jurisdiction in which it is located.  For example, if you are a resident of Washington, but own a condo on Maui, there will be a primary probate in Washington and an ancillary probate in Hawaii.  Using an RLT to hold title for any out of state property will remove that property from the probate process and it will pass according to your wishes contained in the RLT.  There is an option to simply have an out of state property revocable living trust, which is a shorter document that does not control the disposition of the rest of your assets.  This RLT would go hand in hand with your Will.

In summary, a revocable living trust is an option for your estate planning in Washington, but it is not a mandatory component.  If confidentiality is a concern or you own out of state property, a revocable living trust may be recommended for your estate plan.

The Estate Planning Attorneys at Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson PLLC are available to meet with you to discuss your current estate and design an estate plan that best matches your goals.