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Wills and revocable trusts in conflict: What happens?

Some people in California who are planning their estate might decide to use both a will and a revocable trust. These tools have different functions and ideally will complement one another, but there are also situations in which the instructions in each one conflicts with the other.

Wills and trusts

Most people are familiar with a will, a document that states what a person wants to happen to their assets after their death. In addition, parents can use it to identify a guardian for their children, or individuals can say what they want to happen to their pets. Many people have heard of a trust but may be less familiar with it. People can use a revocable trust to appoint a trustee who can manage or distribute the assets in it according to the grantor’s wishes.

Contradictions between wills and trusts

Errors or ambiguities in the preparation of a trust could lead to a costly process of trust litigation. What is important to remember about wills and trusts is that they deal with different property. Once a trust is created, it must be funded, and once assets are placed in the trust, the will does not determine what happens to those assets. Similarly, a trust does not determine what happens to assets outside of it that a will addresses. Therefore, a situation in which a person uses a will to name who should inherit a piece of property that is part of a revocable trust would result in the trust being honored and not the instructions in the will.

It is important for individuals to review and potentially update their estate planning documents after a major change in the family, such as marriage or divorce. However, it is also important that all the documents are included in the review. This can help ensure consistency across the entire estate plan.