Trusts & Estates Law/living trust


QUESTION: is a living trust the same as a life estate? and If my mom divorced but owns the house 50/50 with my father can she go and make changes with out him? like take herself off and add me on? etc...

ANSWER: No they are very different.  A living trust allows you to put any or all of your assets into the trust to be managed or distributed according to the trust document.  If they are divorced she should be able to to whatever she wants with her have.  Further neither can sell the house without the consent of the other.  A life estate is an interest in a property which only allows you to live there for the rest of your life.  

So yes, she can deed over her half to you.  All these issues are driven by state law and I don't know how it works in RI.  I don't have any reason to think that RI is that different but you need to find out if the house is Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship - which means an owner's half goes to the other tenant like your dad, or Joint Tenants in Common where the property passes by the will.  I think only a local attorney can tell you for sure, but I am fairly confident that your mom can do what she wants with her have.  However, as I said if it is JTWROS your dad will get the property outright if she dies first and vice versa.  

I hope this helps, if not email me back.

David Disraeli

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: email at the link? and yes it says joint tenants on the deed/title.I have 1 brother & 1 sister,my parents do want to slight anyone but also want the house in the family unless we all agree to sell it,and the best way seems to be a living trust? So I am clear no one would own it per say?,not be able to sell it or take $$ out on it? stuff like that.and if this is all true,if we all agreed then we can sell it someday? 1 sibling says im all set keep the house does as u need,the other wants it sold this is the goal to stop with simply saying here the house is yours Lisa,I hope that makes sense.


I am a little confused, but a living trust would distribute its contents at the death of the trust maker - your mom lets say.  It may be easier to email me at and tell me what your end game is.  Then I can respond or send you to an attorney.


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David Disraeli


I can answer general questions about estate planning and trusts. I can also answer questions about estate tax reduction and advanced charitable giving, family partnerships and asset protection. I may have already answered your question here: or here


I have worked for 24 years with clients and their attorneys to formulate estate plans to meet client goals. I have found many mistakes made by client attorneys and were able to have them corrected. I focus on making sure that beneficiaries are protected from current or future spouses and lawsuits so the wealth stays in the family. I have also published a book on Aging Parents which can be found on Amazon

President and founder of The Personal CFO Inc.


Certified Financial Planner 1994

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