What Are Testamentary Trusts? Do You Need One?

A trust that goes into effect after your death is known as a testamentary trust. Testamentary trusts are often created as part of a will.

Since your will must be admitted to probate before your assets can be distributed to your beneficiaries, any trusts created in the will must also be admitted to probate. This means that, unlike living trusts, testamentary trusts may take some time before they become effective.

Making changes to a testamentary trust

Testamentary trusts can be complicated to amend. Because testamentary trusts are created within a will, any revisions you make to the trust also requires revising the will.

Privacy of testamentary trusts

Many people create trusts to conceal certain property. With testamentary trusts, however, there is no privacy. This is because testamentary trusts are created as parts of wills, and since wills are public documents any trusts created within a will are also public. If you are interested in creating a trust to create some privacy around your assets, you will probably want to set up a living trust.

Testamentary trust cost

Testamentary trusts can be fairly affordable to create since they’re part of a will, meaning that there’s no additional paperwork in setting up the trusts. This is unlike a living trust, which must be created as a separate legal document.

Revocable vs. irrevocable

Testamentary trusts are revocable while you alive and become irrevocable after you die. This is because while you are alive you are the trustee of the trust and can make any changes to the trust that you'd like. But once you are dead you are no longer the trustee, and are unable to make changes.

To learn more about revocable trusts, see our article Revocable Trusts.

To learn more about irrevocable trusts, see our article Irrevocable Trusts.