For many people, estate planning is just about the documents that spell out who gets what after you die. Yet at Blacksburg Law, we know that estate planning can be about so much more. Our trust-based estate plans focus on how you want to live – and the legacy that you want to leave behind after you pass.

A revocable living trust is the cornerstone of any trust-based estate plan. This document is used to hold and manage your assets during your lifetime and beyond. In addition to managing your finances and planning for your future, a living trust can be utilized to share your hopes and dreams with your loved ones.

At Blacksburg Law, we take a different approach to estate planning. Our flat fee arrangement allows us to devote the time and energy necessary to have in-depth conversations with you about what you want to accomplish with your estate plan. If you’d like to learn more about our process and how a revocable living trust could benefit you, reach out to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.

How Our Estate Planning Process Is Different

At Blacksburg Law, we view estate planning as a road trip. A lot of people mistake estate planning documents for the road trip itself. We view the documents as the vehicle that helps you get to where you want to go. The documents are critical – but they are not your estate plan.

When you’re getting ready for a road trip, you will need to pack up your vehicle and get it ready to go. In estate planning, the instructions set out in the trust document and the conversations that you have with your loved ones are how you get ready to go. Our law firm will walk you through this process.

We know that you must have carefully drafted documents to get to where you need to go. We can and will write a well-crafted revocable living trust document for you. But our work goes far beyond simply writing documents.

We believe that estate planning shouldn’t just be focused on what happens after you die. It should be about how you want to live. A revocable living trust – as part of a broader trust-based estate plan – is the tool that allows you to figure out how you want to live and to make it happen. We guide and counsel you towards what estate planning success looks like for you – and how these documents can help you achieve these goals.

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    Founder Michael Blacksburg previously worked as a fiduciary and corporate trustee. These experiences give him a far deeper understanding of what it means to create a comprehensive estate plan. For each client, his goal is to design an estate plan that is based on their assets, responsibilities, and what they want their legacy to be.

    Like other estate planning law firms, we will talk to you about your finances, including which assets will fund the trust and how any non-trust assets will be transferred into the trust upon your death. Our work goes beyond these basics, however, to dig into your hopes for the future and how the plan as a whole will work.

    Our services are designed for people who want more than just a set of documents. We will have conversations with you about things like how you want to be remembered, whether you have had conversations with your loved ones about your plans, and how you want your assets to be managed during your lifetime and after your death. We will also talk to you about how to make the plan workable, down to little details like who has an extra set of house keys or access to electronic accounts.

    We know that for most people, estate planning is an unpleasant but necessary task. Our goal is to help you focus on how you want to live and what you want your legacy to be. In this way, the process is both helpful and hopeful. Ultimately, we want you to be satisfied with the trust that you have created, to be able to use the trust as you want during your life, and for that trust to work as you expect after you pass.

    What Is a Revocable Living Trust?

    A revocable living trust is the centerpiece of a trust-based estate plan. Broadly speaking, it is a written document that places your assets into a trust during your lifetime. After your death, these assets may be distributed or may continue to be held in the trust for the benefit of your heirs.

    A trust is a legal fiction. You can’t physically hold it and while you’re alive there’s virtually no proof of its existence. To simplify things, we like to explain a revocable living trust as being like a bucket. It is essentially a place to put all of your “stuff” (assets). If you cannot carry your bucket anymore, it is easy to hand it off to another person. Without this bucket, your loved ones may have to spend a lot of time and energy looking for your stuff. With a bucket, they can simply follow the instructions that you already wrote out for them about how to use the stuff in your bucket.

    Of course, this isn’t just any bucket – it has special properties. This bucket allows you to decide how your “stuff” will be managed, where the stuff goes after you die, and even allows you to use all sorts of flowery language to make your intentions clear. Best of all, this bucket allows you to accomplish a lot without ever having to go to court.

    Living trusts have been around for hundreds of years. There are no surprises with this type of trust; we know how it works and what to expect. An experienced California estate planning attorney can help you draft a revocable living trust that meets your unique needs.

    It is important to understand some basic terms when we are discussing trusts. These terms include:

    1. Trustor/grantor/trustmaker: the person who creates the trust or the bucket.
    2. Trustee: the person who manages the trust. For revocable living trusts, the trustee is often the same person as the trustor (creator) during their lifetime.
    3. Beneficiary: the person who gets to use the assets in the trust. Again, for revocable living trusts, the beneficiary is typically the trustor.

    During the trustmaker’s lifetime, they usually hold all three positions. This allows them to make the trust, hold and manage the assets in the trust, and benefit from the trust. When the trustmaker can no longer do one or more of these things due to death or incapacity, a new trustee steps forward to manage the trust assets for the new beneficiaries.

    Most provisions in a trust are designed to be read by a future trustee or a court. These provisions generally do not directly relate to the creator. Instead, they serve as guidelines and guardrails for the successor trustee.

    The trust “bucket” only controls whatever assets are placed into it. Additional assets may be transferred to the bucket after the trustmaker’s death, such as the proceeds of a life insurance policy, retirement accounts, or assets that are transferred to the trust through a pour-over will. Any assets that are not held in the trust will be handled by other estate planning documents, such as the will.

    A revocable living is both an estate planning tool as well as a financial planning tool. It is a way to manage assets effectively and privately, without the need for probate after the death of the trustmaker. Significantly, it will not shelter assets from creditors or help you avoid estate taxes. However, after your death, the resulting trust can protect your assets as they are transferred to or managed on behalf of your beneficiaries.

    This type of trust only works for assets that are actually held in the trust. In other words, it isn’t enough to create the trust. You must also fund it by transferring assets into the “bucket.”

    Ready to Get Started? Reach Out Today.

    A revocable living trust can be so much more than just a legal document. At Blacksburg Law, our trust-based estate plans allow you to manage your finances during your lifetime, and decide how you want to be remembered after you are gone. In this way, a living trust should represent who you are and what is important to you.

    Our law firm counsels clients throughout the San Francisco region and California as they develop an estate plan. We offer flat-fee arrangements so that we can collaborate on the process without watching the clock or worrying about billable hours. If you want an estate plan that goes beyond the standard set of documents, give us a call at 415-508-5600 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

    Estate Planning Basics


    Download our Estate Planning Basics PDF Guide to get more information about what estate planning is, how it works, what you need to consider, and why Blacksburg Law is the right partner for you.

    Michael Blacksburg


    “I love working with individual and families who look to define (or redefine) what it means to be a family member and how best to marshal the family resources for best to marshal the family resources for every family member’s benefit”

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