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What Happens to a Living Trust After Death?

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When a loved one passes away, one of the key components in managing their estate is understanding what happens to a living trust after death. Initially, this trust is known as a revocable trust or living trust. Its primary role is to articulate who receives the property after someone’s passing. The main advantage of such a trust is that it helps avoid the lengthy and often complex process of probate.

Creating a living trust involves you naming yourself as the trustee, meaning you manage the property owned by the trust. It’s also crucial to appoint a successor trustee, who will take charge of your estate after your demise. We often recommend naming an alternate to this successor as a backup. As long as you are alive and well, the trust remains revocable, allowing you the freedom to cancel, replace, or modify it as you see fit.

The Transformation of a Living Trust After Death

Once you pass away, your living trust undergoes a significant transformation; it becomes irrevocable. This change means that your expressed wishes in the trust are now unalterable. The appointed successor trustee has a responsibility to adhere strictly to these wishes. This phase marks the beginning of a new chapter in managing your estate, guided by the instructions you set in your living trust.

The Role of a Successor Trustee

The successor trustee, a role often filled by a trusted family member, friend, or professional, steps in to manage the estate as per the trust’s directives. Their first task is to inventory and take control of the trust assets. This process involves gathering and safeguarding all assets, from simple bank accounts to more unique items like collections or personal belongings.

Inventory and Control of Trust Assets

Inventorizing the assets is a task requiring diligence and sensitivity. For instance, in a recent case we handled, the trustee had to secure and account for over 40 firearms owned by the deceased. This process showcases the importance of a thorough and considerate approach to handling a wide variety of assets, ensuring they are safe and well-accounted for during this transition period.

Distribution of Trust Assets

The final and perhaps most significant step in managing a living trust after death is distributing the assets to the beneficiaries. This stage is where the successor trustee ensures that the right individuals receive what was intended for them by the decedent. This distribution must align strictly with the wishes outlined in the trust, ensuring a fair and respectful fulfillment of the deceased’s final instructions.


Navigating what happens to a living trust after death can be a complex and emotional journey. Our role is to provide you with compassionate guidance and support through each step of this process. We understand the importance of honoring your loved one’s wishes with the utmost respect and care.

For more detailed assistance and personalized advice, feel free to contact us. Together, we can ensure a stress-free and dignified management of your loved one’s estate, offering a fresh start during this challenging time.