Totten Trust

Totten Trust

A Totten Trust can solve some of the problems of joint ownership. This is a method of setting up the title to property so that it automatically passes at death without the beneficiary having any rights to it until the first owner's life is over. It was named after the court case in which a court held that it was legal to do.

A Totten Trust is established when the property is set up in trust for (I/T/F), with a named beneficiary. Some institutions may use the letters POD for pay on death or TOD for transfer on death. Either way, the result is the same. No one, except you, can get the money until your death. Upon death, it immediately goes directly to the person you name without a will or probate proceeding.

Totten Trusts have been valid for a long time for bank accounts. Most states have passed laws allowing them to be used for securities such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Check with a lawyer before attempting to use a Totten Trust for real estate.

If your financial advisor will not or cannot set up your mutual fund or brokerage account to pay on death, check with some others located in another state. Yours may be located in a state where this is not permitted.