Totten Trusts

Should You Use a Totten Trust?

Totten Trusts can eliminate the need to probate a Will. You can create this type of trust with a bank account. In a Totten Trust the bank account owner names a beneficiary who becomes the owner of the account only when the primary owner dies. The Totten Trust is revocable: the primary owner can amend or revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. The beneficiary has no rights to the account before the owner dies.

When a joint tenancy is used instead of a Totten Trust, the joint owner receives an immediate interest in the account, including the right to withdraw some or all of the funds. This immediate right to obtain funds can cause problems if the new joint owner is not completely trustworthy. Also, it may be impossible to eliminate a joint owner from the account if the original owner desires a change.  At first glance a Totten Trust may seem like an easy way to plan an estate and to avoid probating a Will.  However, there are a number of pitfalls to this view.  First, if a person has numerous potential beneficiaries it is cumbersome to name them all as beneficiaries on a bank account even if the bank will allow this.  It is equally cumbersome to create many separate bank accounts for each beneficiary.  It may be much more efficient to just have all assets pass through the probate estate and have a Last Will provide the amount or percentage each beneficiary is to receive.  Since account balances and banks themselves may change over time, keeping track of many Totten Trust accounts may result in some beneficiaries not receiving their intended inheritance.  Also, if a named beneficiary dies before the account owner, the account usually just passes under the Will and there is no provision for a contingent beneficiary on the account.  A Last Will or Living Trust can and should have provisions for alternative dispositions if a primary beneficiary pre-deceases the creator.  A qualified Trust and Estates attorney in New York can help you create the most appropriate estate plan using a Totten Trust and other vehicles such as a Will so that your intended beneficiaries receive their inheritance without estate complications.

I have helped many clients deal with issues concerning Totten Trusts.

Regardless of the size of an estate, most adults — young and old — and their families benefit greatly from having a well-prepared estate plan consisting of documents such as a: Last Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney, Living Will and maybe even Totten Trusts. I can help you decide if a Totten Trust is best for you. I have many years of experience working with and advising clients in the creation and implementation of plans that effectively express the clients’ personal desires regarding the disposition and protection of assets while providing potential tax advantages and security for family and beneficiaries.

I graduated in the top 10% of my class at The New England School of Law in Boston and served on the prestigious “Law Review.”

Please come in to my office for a free consultation and meet with me to discuss your options. To contact me in Manhattan call (212) 355-2575.