What is a Revocable Trust?

Legal matters, business strategy and life perspectives from the mind of a non-attorney.

As a sophomore in college, I spent 5 months in Bordeaux, France.

Another example of me pushing myself WAY out of my comfort zone, it turned out to be one of the most valuable/memorable/amazing – and difficult – experiences of my life. I might write a little more about it another time – specifically the lessons learned. But, we’ll see.

In preparation for that trip, I started learning French. #RosettaStone. It sucked. Like… I’m a reasonably intelligent person, but for whatever reason my brain just wants NOTHING to do with learning another language. 2 years of Spanish in high school were an absolute prison sentence for me.

Something to know about me: If I’m not good at something… and I know I’m not good at it… I’m not trying to do that thing anymore.

So, naturally, after about 1 month of struggle-fest with Rosetta Stone French I started looking for a reason not to do it. It was pretty easy to find one. Everyone I talked to about the trip – advisors, former exchange students, current exchange students – asked me, “How’s your French?” … “Uhhh… Not very good,” … “Don’t worry, almost everyone there speaks English, so you’ll be fine.”


So yes, I was the lazy American that spent 5 months in a foreign country relying on others to speak my primary language.

And it worked out just fine.

My Points:

  • I recognize, respect, and envy anyone that takes the time to learn another language. It is an amazing skill. I don’t care who you are, you have not gotten enough credit for it… Especially if you did it as an adult (sorry kids, it’s just easier for you).
  • Those of us who are born speaking English are lucky. English is the Universal language of the world. By some estimates, almost 2 billion people speak English as their Secondary language. People in other countries STRIVE to perfect their English. Parents PUSH their children to excel in speaking it the way we push ours to excel in sports. We were born speaking it. It’s a real blessing. We may not realize it or appreciate it, but it is.
  • Finally – and this is the point that will link into this week’s content – I feel bad for the people who have to learn our language.

By almost all accounts, French is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn (talk about a blow to the ‘ole self esteem). English is among the most difficult.

There are probably thousands of examples of why that is true. Here is one from NapoleonMidnight, commenting on this blog:

“The plural of chicken would be chickens only if you are speaking about chickens – the animal. Once they have been slaughtered and are used for food, all of the multiple pieces of chicken that you might cook are always referred to as chicken, no matter how many pieces you use. UNLESS you specifically cooked 2 or more whole chickens and somebody specifically wanted to know how many of them you were cooking. Then you would say ‘two chickens’. Is this confusing enough?”

At this time I’d like to direct your attention to a term from Lawyer-Land that I expect would be puzzlingly confusing for anyone trying to learn the English language:

The Revocable Trust.

Trust: An unwavering reliance on the character, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Revocable: Capable of being cancelled.

I’m sorry, what?

You want me to put all my most valuable assets into something called… “Revocable Trust”?

So the lawyer marketing people had a bad day that day. But don’t let that discourage you from learning what a Revocable Trust is!

It’s approximately 1,327% better than its name would lead you to believe.

Explain it to me like I’m 5 please… Think of it like a special basket. This basket is created by an attorney for you to put assets in. When you die, the basket will be delivered directly to whoever you said it should go to.

But that’s why I have a will… (3) Things to know: 1) The legitimacy of a will must be verified by a court of law. This is called Probate. Probate costs money. 2) Probate takes a long time and can be very stressful for your loved ones 3) When a will is verified by a court of law, everything in your estate becomes public record. Trusts, on the other hand, are private.

Ok. But what if I still need my assets after I put them in the basket? No problem. Most people do. With a revocable trust, you can still use your assets.

Isn’t this just for rich people? No it isn’t. If you don’t want people knowing how much “stuff” you had after you die – a trust is what you need. Period. End of story. Privacy is a very legitimate, non-financial reason to own a trust. You are also doing your loved ones a big favor when you create a trust – it’s one less stressful thing they have to deal with after you are gone.

Do YOU own a trust? No. Why not? 1) As of today, my estate is rather small. Avoiding the cost of probate doesn’t help my family out a whole lot. 2) Privacy is not a concern of mine at this point in life. After all, I just told you that my estate is small… So if I die tomorrow and you look up public records of my estate and find out that it’s… Small… I don’t really care.

Ok, I get the privacy thing and I don’t want anything to be stressful for my family… But I’m still not convinced it’s right for me. If you’re looking for further rationalization that your estate is “big enough” to need a trust, try this:

Think about the value of your estate, minus anything that has a named beneficiary. As a general rule:

 This Counts      

This Doesn’t

Home Equity


Real Estate / Land Equity

Life Insurance Proceeds


Anything held in a Trust



In the state of Wisconsin, probate generally costs 4% of ‘Probate Assets’ (roughly half of that going to attorney fees. The other half going to the state fees.)

So, for an estate that has $100,000 in ‘Probate Assets’… The probate process will cost roughly $4,000.

The Google Machine tells us that the average cost of creating a Trust is about $2,500 for married couples.

Does it make financial sense for YOU to get a Trust? Make a simple comparison between the expected cost of Probate and the cost to create a Trust to find out:

Estate Size (Assets subject to Probate)

Cost of Probate (Assuming 4%) Cost of a Trust (Average)


$40,000 $2,500


$30,000 $2,500




$250,000 $10,000


$100,000 $4,000


$50,000 $2,000


Is it worth it for you to spend $2,500(ish) on a Trust now in order to avoid ______ financial cost when you die, privacy to your estate, and less stress for your family? Only you can decide that.

For me, right now, the answer is no. It’s not worth it. But I can also tell you that at some point down the road, the answer will be an emphatic YES.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • What I have done here is very rudimentary in nature. These are purely estimates to give you some sort basis upon which you can start making your decision.
  • In reality, the cost of a Trust varies greatly based on the specific Firm and Attorney you are working with. In many cases, costs are based on the amount of time (Billable Hours) an attorney takes to draft your document.

Give Epiphany Law a call if you want to find out what our Fixed Pricing is for Estate Plans w/ a Trust.

Question for the Crowd: Have you ever had to deal with an extended/stressful Probate process? Do you wish a Trust would have been involved? Please comment below or send us an email (Re: Probate Experience) and we will post your story anonymously.

I continue to be humbled by the likes, comments, shares and general love that you have shown our blog. If you have questions, comments, or topic suggestions for us, please direct those to: [email protected]

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