Despite most people not knowing what a revocable living trust is, it is actually not some new invention from a few years ago. It has actually been around longer than gunpowder let alone being a new invention in the last century. A revocable living trust is simply a trust set up by a person during their life that lists what happens to the property in the trust after death.
The original use for living trusts was in England in the 1400s and beyond was to prevent the King from making accusations against a nobleman for the purpose of confiscating the nobleman’s property. (Apparently, this was a fairly common practice.) To prevent their families from losing everything, noblemen put their assets into a revocable living trust so even if they lost their freedom, or even their lives, the King couldn’t legally get to their property. While the Crown was not happy about this, they upheld the High Court’s rulings that revocable living trusts were valid and would prevent the King from confiscating property any time they pleased.
The first revocable living trust in the Americas was created for Francis Fauquier, the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, in 1765. As the King’s representative in the Colony of Virginia, (the technical “Governor” of colonies was usually a nobleman who stayed in Great Britain) he decided to make use of his attorney’s good advice and ensure that his family would not have to suffer through probate in order to get his assets upon death. Governor Faquier’s attorney was a Virginia country lawyer you may have heard of… Patrick Henry. In commenting on probate, Patrick Henry was quoted as saying, “When the Lord gives me death, give my estate liberty.” OK, we made that last part up, but the rest of it is true.
Today, revocable living trusts have become a much more commonly used estate planning tool to avoid the perils of probate for the families left behind. With the definitive guide to revocable living trusts to reach 28 years in circulation, The Living Trust by Henry W. Abts III and all of the subsequent books reaching the people in the middle class, people are realizing that living trusts may the right way for their estates to avoid confiscation… not by a King but by the government and probate attorneys.
For more information on revocable living trusts, you can read Mr. Abt’s book “The Living Trust,” or any of Mr. Marsocci’s books available on his website.