Naming a Trust as Beneficiary

When you make Nolo's Online Will, you can name a trust as a beneficiary. A trust can be a main beneficiary, alternate beneficiary, or residuary beneficiary.

When you name a trust as beneficiary, after you die your executor will transfer the property to the trust, rather than directly to a person or organization. This is generally done for one of two reasons—either you want all of the property that passes through your will to "pour" into your living trust, or you want to leave property to a loved one's "special needs trust."

Leaving Property to Your Living Trust

If you have a living trust, you can use your will to transfer property to the trust after your death. If the primary purpose of your will is to funnel property to a living trust, the will is called a "pour-over" will.

Making a pour-over will means you don't have to transfer every minor asset into your living trust. Also, if you name your trust as the sole beneficiary or the residuary beneficiary of your will, the pour-over will covers any property that you might have neglected to transfer to the trust during your life.

But there's one important thing to keep in mind when you make a pour-over will: The property you leave through the will may have to go through probate when you die. Because living trusts are designed to avoid probate, if you leave too much property through your will, you may end up thwarting your own best intentions.

Most people who make a pour-over will leave most or all of their property through the living trust or through other beneficiary designations (such as life insurance), so that very little property ends up passing through the will. Whatever approach you take, before you make a pour-over will, be sure you know how much property your state allows you to pass through your will without triggering probate proceedings.

To use your will to leave property to your living trust, name your trust as beneficiary for that property using the trustee's name and the name of the trust.

  • For example: "John Doe as trustee of the John Doe Living Trust, dated January 1, 20xx".

Leaving Property to a Special Needs Trust

Special needs trusts allow people with disabilities to receive additional support without risking their eligibility for government benefits. Money or property given directly to people with disabilities is likely to interfere with their ability to receive disability benefits. For this reason, if a loved one has a special needs trust, instead of naming that person as a beneficiary of your will, you may want to name that trust.

To name a special needs trust as a beneficiary of your will, enter the name of the trustee and the full legal name of the trust as beneficiary.

  • For example, "James Leung as the trustee of The Eric Workman Special Needs Trust").