The Law Offices of Vincent E. Sullivan

The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization

Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law


Vincent E. Sullivan Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate



(A condensation of a published article by Vincent E. Sullivan)

Revocable trusts are generally benign creatures during the settlor’s lifetime, but the problems arise when a settlor dies or become incapacitated. With thousands of revocable trusts having been written in recent years, trust problems are surfacing in significant numbers as settlors pass away. Eager beneficiaries are willing to fight for their inheritance, and with large amounts of money involved in trusts, expensive trust litigation is mushrooming

Trust problems arise in a number of areas, particularly

1. Choice of trust plan;

2. Trust language;

3. Failure to fund the trust; and

4. Inexperienced trustees.


Use of a revocable living trust can avoid the need for a probate or conservatorship, and save taxes for the children of a married couple. However, special care must be given to understand trust options available.

A parent or couple with young children may want wills with testamentary trusts, which become effective when one or both spouses pass away. This testamentary trust does not avoid probate, but protects the assets for the children.

A husband and wife who are not worried about providing for children from prior marriages, and who do not have a really large estate, may want a trust which is revocable after one settlor dies. This type of trust avoids probate and conservatorship. A disclaimer trust can also be used to eliminate estate taxes.

Married couples with large estates may want an A-B type trust. The idea of the A-B trust is to take advantage of the federal estate tax exemption at the death of each spouse, thereby increasing the amount which can pass estate tax free to children. The A-B trust can also protect the inheritance of children from a prior marriage.

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