Fraud Blocker

Do Living Trusts protect assets from creditor claims?

Dispelling the Misconception of Living Trusts as Creditor Shields

In estate planning, revocable living trusts often emerge as a favored choice. Yet, a prevailing misconception exists that these trusts provide a fortress-like defense against creditors. Mark Fishbein, a lead estate planner at ALTA Estate, is here to clarify. As Mark illuminates, revocable living trusts, while serving essential functions in estate planning, fall short when shielding assets from creditors. The legal intricacies surrounding trustor ownership and control create vulnerabilities that creditors can exploit. Mark’s expertise will guide you in crafting a comprehensive asset protection plan, ensuring that your estate planning decisions align with your goals and offer the safeguarding your assets genuinely require.

The Reality of Revocable Living Trusts

Revocable living trusts are popular tools in estate planning, often lauded for their flexibility and probate-avoidance benefits. However, there’s a common misconception that they serve as impenetrable shields protecting assets from creditor claims. Mark Fishbein wants to set the record straight—revocable living trusts, while valuable, don’t offer the robust creditor protection some might assume.

Critical Characteristics of Revocable Living Trusts

  • Purpose and Function of a Revocable Trust: Revocable living trusts are designed to hold the trustor’s assets during their lifetime, with the trustor typically acting as the trustee. This setup allows for seamless management and control over the trust assets while the trustor is alive.
  • Trustor as Trustee during Lifetime: In a revocable trust, the trustor retains the power to alter or revoke the trust at any time. While this flexibility is advantageous, it also means that the assets held within the trust are still considered the trustor’s property.
  • Asset Distribution and Probate Avoidance: Upon the trustor’s death, a successor trustee distributes the assets to the beneficiaries, bypassing the probate process. However, the trustor’s continued control over the trust assets can make them vulnerable to creditor claims.

Irrevocable Living Trusts: A Stronger Fortress Against Creditors

In contrast to revocable trusts, irrevocable living trusts offer a more robust defense against creditors. When assets are transferred into an irrevocable trust, the trustor relinquishes control. Legally, these assets become the property of the trust, not the trustor, effectively placing them beyond the reach of creditors.

Understanding State Laws and Irrevocable Trusts

Understanding your state’s legal landscape regarding irrevocable trusts is crucial. While these trusts can protect assets, transferring assets intending to defraud creditors can lead to legal repercussions, including the possibility of the trust being invalidated. State-specific regulations must be considered when crafting an irrevocable trust.

Exploring Alternative Asset Protection Strategies

Beyond trusts, other avenues exist for protecting your assets from creditor claims. Many states offer homestead exemptions and protect retirement accounts from creditors. Additionally, forming an LLC or corporation can create a legal barrier between your personal assets and business liabilities. Liability insurance is another layer of protection to consider in your comprehensive asset protection strategy.

Crafting a Comprehensive Asset Protection Plan

While revocable living trusts offer several estate planning benefits, they do not provide a shield against creditors. On the other hand, irrevocable trusts may offer this protection, but they come with their own set of legal considerations. Crafting a comprehensive asset protection plan involves understanding the limitations of different tools, considering state laws, and exploring alternative strategies.

Remember, making informed decisions about your estate plan and asset protection is crucial. Consulting with an estate planning expert like Mark Fishbein with ALTA Estate can guide you in navigating these complex waters and ensure your assets are protected according to your wishes.


Q1: Are revocable living trusts utterly ineffective at protecting assets from creditors?

A1: Revocable living trusts are not designed primarily for asset protection from creditors. While they offer other benefits, such as probate avoidance and streamlined estate distribution, they do not provide strong protection against creditors.

Q2: What makes irrevocable trusts more effective in asset protection?

A2: Irrevocable trusts are more effective because they transfer ownership and control of assets to the trust itself, removing them from the trustor’s estate. Creditors typically cannot access assets held in an irrevocable trust.

Q3: Are there any downsides to using irrevocable trusts for asset protection?

A3: Irrevocable trusts require the trustor to give up control over the assets to their designated trustee, and changes to the trust are generally limited. Additionally, asset transfers intending to defraud creditors can lead to legal issues.

Q4: What other asset protection strategies should I consider besides trusts?

A4: Other strategies include state homestead exemptions, protection of retirement accounts, forming legal entities like LLCs or corporations, and obtaining liability insurance to safeguard assets.

Q5: Why is consulting with an estate planning expert essential for asset protection planning?

A5: Estate planning professionals like Mark Fishbein can assess your unique circumstances, provide tailored guidance, and ensure that your asset protection plan aligns with your overall estate planning goals while complying with state laws.

Feel free to call the Estate Planning Attorneys in Tucson at (520) 462-4058 to learn more about proper and complete estate planning, including the Emergency Telephone Hotline Program afforded to you and your family members at no charge during times of crisis and the other benefits of estate planning described above.

Mark Fishbein, Tucson, AZ. Follow Mark Fishbein Tucson Estate Planner on LinkedIn or Facebook.

The text above is for general informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. For more information, click Contact Us.