Many people in California need to create a revocable trust if they want their family to avoid having to deal with the California probate process. A revocable trust can also be used to ensure that the inheritance you leave behind will not be lost if your children get sued or divorced.
Using An Irrevocable Trust To Minimize Estate Tax
Irrevocable trusts are used for more complex planning, typically in two situations. One is where your family could potentially have to pay an estate tax on their inheritance. Currently, each person can leave behind around $12 million, and you can double that for married couples before estate tax kicks in.
So it’s not every family that has to pay this tax. For those families that may be subject to estate tax, irrevocable trusts are often used to transfer assets out of your estate and lower your tax exposure. Note that it’s likely that the $12 million threshold will be cut to around $6 million in 2026, bringing more families potentially into the estate tax net.
When You Want Asset Protection In Your Estate Planning
The other situation where irrevocable trusts are often used is where asset protection is a particular concern. Asset protection involves creating structures that protect your assets from creditors, bankruptcy, or lawsuits.
Creating an irrevocable trust often in states that have strong asset protection laws, such as Nevada, or Delaware, is one method that can be used to create a structure that will shift the balance of power in your favor if you were to be sued.
These kinds of trusts are as much about psychology as they are about legal efficacy. If you’re sued by someone, and they see that you have an asset protection trust set up, they will be more likely to come to the table to negotiate a settlement as they will not want to spend the time and resources arguing over the efficacy of the trust in a court battle.
The key point here though is that even if you have the need to consider irrevocable trust planning, whether, for tax or asset protection reasons, the foundation of everyone’s plan is the revocable trust. All other kinds of trusts will be built around the revocable trust.
Talk to your San Diego trust lawyer to understand the basics of revocable and irrevocable trusts.