Simply put, a revocable trust can be changed and an irrevocable trust cannot.
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A trust that only goes into effective upon death is commonly called a “testamentary trust” and is usually created in a will, thus a probate would normally be necessary.
A “living trust” is set up during life and usually involves your major assets such as investments, savings, home(s) and real estate. You transfer the title to these assets from your name into the name of your trust. You then list an alternate trustee to manage your trust in the event you cannot. A living trust does not usually require probate.
A trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee is named to manage another person's property and assets when that person cannot due to illness, injury or death.
If you change your mind about a provision or reconsider a beneficiary, you can modify the terms of a revocable trust by filing an amendment. You could also change the contents of the trust or revoke it entirely.
A revocable trust does have some disadvantages. Items in the trust will still be considered your own personal assets for creditor and estate tax purposes. If sued, a revocable trust offers no protection from creditors. When you die, the assets will be subject to both state and federal estate taxes.
A typical revocable living trust becomes irrevocable when you die and can be designed to break into separate irrevocable trusts for the benefit of a surviving spouse, children or other beneficiaries.
Irrevocable trusts typically remove the assets from your estate. In other words, the agreement transfers ownership of your assets to the trustee. In addition, since you no longer own the assets, the assets will not normally be part of your taxable estate after your death though there are usually gift tax considerations.
Another common use for an irrevocable trust is to protect trust assets from creditors. By giving up complete control and access to the trust assets, the assets are usually outside of the reach of creditors but can still provide financial support to others.