A trust is a legal construction for managing and owning property. A living trust is one you create during your lifetime, as opposed to creating a testamentary trust in your will. Under Washington state law, you can use a living trust to keep assets out of probate or to arrange for a trustee to manage your affairs if you're incapacitated.
Living trusts can be either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust is a popular estate-planning tool, according to the Washington State Bar, because you can appoint yourself as trustee and control the trust assets until your death as if they were legally yours. Irrevocable trusts don't let you receive income or use of trust assets; unlike a revocable trust, you can't make changes once you establish the trust. Washington law assumes that your trust is irrevocable unless you specifically say otherwise when creating it.
To create a Washington state trust, either you or an appointed trustee will probably have to live in the state, according to the state bar. Any competent adult can serve as trustee; banks or trust companies can also serve as trustees. If you're the trustee, it's important to appoint an alternative trustee who can manage the trust if you're unable to do so. Once you've used the state form for creating a trust, you must go through more paperwork to give the trust title to your assets.
The primary reason for creating a living trust is to keep property out of probate; the assets legally belong to the trust, so they aren't covered by your will. According to the state bar, Washington's probate process is simple enough that this may not be an issue. The Washington Probate website states that probate typically costs $350 plus any hourly fees for lawyers and other professionals, if they're needed. Unlike some states, such as California, the amount of the fees isn't affected by the size of the estate.
Assets you put in a Washington revocable trust can escape probate, according to the state bar, provided you keep the trust's financial and tax records separate from yours; it can't avoid estate taxes, however. The contents of an irrevocable trust will stay safe from both probate and taxes. Any assets you keep in your own name will go through probate; the state bar recommends you draft a will so that if you fail to include some of your assets in the trust, your wishes for disposing of them will still be clear.
- Washington Probate: FAQ About Probate
- American Bar Association. "What Is a Revocable Living Trust?" Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
- Klenk Law. "Revocable Living Trusts: Everything You Need to Know." Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
- Fiduciary Trust Company International. "The Benefits and Shortcomings of Revocable Trusts." Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
- Fidelity Investments. "What Is a Trust?" Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
- Klenk Law. "Irrevocable Trusts: Everything You Need to Know." Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
- Kulas Law Group. "Can I Be the Trustee of My Own Revocable Living Trust?" Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
- Fidelity Investments. "Why Naming the Right Trustee is Critical." Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.