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What is the difference between an irrevocable trust estate and an irrevocable life estate

La Mirada, CA |
Attorney answers 3


an irrevocable trust is a trust that is set up with money or life insurance that can not be modified or changed. a life estate is the transfer of the present possesory right to real property for the duration of someones life and upon their death it reverts to the remaindermen. although its not common to use the term irrevocable life estate it would imply that unlike the normal life estate that can be terminated prior to the possesors life an irrevocable life estate is just that...

without a detailed review by a lawyer can all the issues raised in your question be appropriately addressed...nothing in this response should be construed as establishing a lawyer client relationship..the answers herein are for informational purposes and not to be construed as advice


We could give you a better answer if we knew the context of your question. Why do you ask?

All trusts have 3 parties: The person or person who create it (usually called "grantors"), the person who is in charge of it ("trustee") and the person or persons for whose benefit the trust was created ("beneficiary or beneficiaries"). In an irrevocable trust, the grantor cannot change anything once the trust is created. (Actually, there are some exceptions to that statement, but are not likely of interest here).

A life estate is an interest in real estate where the person who owns the real estate gives away the ownership of the property, but that transfer only becomes effective upon death. The lifetime interest of the person transferring away the remainder interest is known as the "Life Estate." Life estates are irrevocable.

Because of the permanence of these legal tools, only a lawyer who is an expert in trusts and/or real estate law should do them. Self-help is dangerous.


The purpose of an irrevocable trust is usually to transfer assets out of the owner's estate for tax reasons. Basically, the owner of the asset ("grantor") transfers it to a third party who holds the asset as trustee of the irrevocable trust. Once the Grantor has transferred the asset to the trustee, he or she must have no further control over the asset. There are other restrictions imposed by the IRS before the asset can be kept out of the grantor's estate.

a common example it the transfer of an insurance policy on the life of the grantor to the irrevocable trust. The beneficiary may be a child, for example. When the grantor dies, the insurance proceeds go to the trust and then to the beneficiary without passing through the insured's estate.

A life estate is something quite different. Essentially, the owner of property, usually a house, decides that the house will eventually go to a niece, say X, on the owner's death but before X can move into the house, or sell it, the owner's mother, say Y, is given the right to live in the house for her life. Y has a life estate, and X is the "remainderman" (an old-fashioned description) or future beneficiary/owner. Legally, it is more complex and has to do with ownership being "split" into legal interest (the owner) and beneficial interest (the right to occupy the property).

i hope the above is helpful.

Mr. Grain is licensed to practice law throughout the state of CA with offices in Los Angeles/Beverly Hills and Pasadena, CA. His phone number is 877-858-4724 or his email address is and his website is Legal disclaimer: LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Any response is only in the form of legal education and is intended to provide only general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Grain strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received. By using this site you understand and agree that there is no attorney client relationship or confidentiality between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your jurisdiction, who is familiar with your specific facts and all of the circumstances and with whom you have an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question or omitted from the question. Circular 230 Disclaimer - Any information in this comment may not be used to eliminate or reduce penalties by the IRS or any other governmental agency.