Evan Meyer and his wife Gay Lee Gulbrandson have owned their house on Hopkins Street in North Berkeley since 1973. The 1,600-square-foot home was just the right size to raise their family of three kids — and it provided an extra financial benefit. There was a second, 1,900-square-foot, three-bedroom home on the property, which the couple rented out.

A number of years ago, Meyer and Gulbrandson transferred their property into a revocable living trust, a legal mechanism that allows people to pass property on to their heirs without going through probate. It is a common estate-planning tool used by people who don’t want the court system to play a role in the distribution of an estate.

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