What is a Joint Trust

What is a Joint Trust?

A joint trust is a legal arrangement created by two individuals, typically a married couple, who act as co-trustees to manage and control assets within a single trust document. This type of trust holds and manages property for the benefit of both trustees, often allowing for the seamless transfer of assets to the surviving spouse upon the death of the other, without the need for probate. 

Joint trusts can be revocable or irrevocable, with revocable being more common, allowing the trustees to alter or terminate the trust during their lifetimes. They offer a unified approach to estate planning, consolidating assets and intentions into one set of documents, and can provide for efficient management and distribution of the trust’s assets in accordance with the couple’s shared wishes.

Is a Joint Trust right for you?

Deciding whether a joint trust is the right choice involves evaluating several key factors:

  • Marital Status and State Laws: Joint trusts are typically most suitable for married couples. State laws also play a role, as some states have community property laws that may affect how assets are handled within a trust.

  • Unified Estate Planning Goals: Couples with similar estate planning objectives may find a joint trust convenient for managing their combined assets and ensuring they are distributed according to their mutual wishes.

  • Simplicity and Streamlining: If you prefer a single estate planning tool that can help manage all of your assets and potentially avoid probate, a joint trust might be beneficial.

  • Privacy Concerns: If privacy in the distribution of your assets is a priority, a joint trust can provide that confidentiality, unlike the public process of probate.

  • Complexity of Assets: If you and your spouse have complex or high-value assets, a joint trust can offer a structure to manage those assets effectively.

  • Consideration of Blended Families: For those in blended families, it’s important to consider how a joint trust might affect inheritance for children from previous relationships.

  • Potential for Disability: A joint trust can allow the well spouse to manage the trust’s assets seamlessly if the other becomes incapacitated.

  • Tax Implications: Understanding the potential tax benefits or liabilities that a joint trust may bring is crucial. This is especially important for estates that may be subject to state or federal estate taxes.

  • Long-Term Trust Management: You should be comfortable with the trustee(s) who will manage the trust after both of you have passed, as this can significantly affect your beneficiaries.

  • Professional Advice: Consulting with an estate planning attorney can help you understand if a joint trust aligns with your specific circumstances and goals.

It’s important to weigh these considerations against other estate planning options, such as separate trusts or wills, to determine the best course of action for your particular situation. 

The pros and cons of joint trusts:


  • Simplified Estate Planning: Joint trusts allow couples to combine their assets into a single trust, making it easier to manage and distribute their estate.
  • Probate Avoidance: After one spouse dies, the trust assets can pass directly to the survivor without going through the probate process, saving time and expenses.
  • Continuity of Management: If one spouse becomes incapacitated or dies, the other can continue to manage the trust without interruption.
  • Privacy: Trusts, unlike wills, are not public records, so a joint trust can maintain the privacy of the estate’s details.
  • Potential for Tax Benefits: Depending on the type of joint trust, there may be opportunities for tax savings, although this can be complex and requires professional advice.


  • Lack of Flexibility: Once the first spouse passes away, the terms of the trust often become irrevocable, limiting the surviving spouse’s ability to adapt to new circumstances.
  • Complexity in Blended Families: For couples with children from previous relationships, a joint trust may complicate inheritance plans and create potential for conflict.
  • Limited Asset Protection: Joint trusts may not offer the same level of asset protection from creditors or lawsuits as separate trusts might.
  • Potential for Disagreements: Both parties must agree on all terms of the trust, which can be a source of contention if there are differing views on how to handle the estate.
  • Legal and Administrative Costs: Establishing and maintaining a joint trust can be more complex and costly than other estate planning options, requiring ongoing legal oversight.


What is a joint trust?
A joint trust is a single trust created by two people, usually spouses, which holds their combined assets and outlines how those assets will be managed and distributed.

Who should consider a joint trust?
Married couples or registered domestic partners looking for a unified approach to manage their assets and simplify their estate planning might consider a joint trust.

Can a joint trust be changed or revoked?
If it’s a revocable joint trust, yes, the trustees can typically alter or revoke the trust as long as both are alive and have the legal capacity to make decisions.

What happens to a joint trust when one spouse dies?
Depending on the terms of the trust, it may either become irrevocable, or the surviving spouse may continue to have control over the trust assets.

Are joint trusts protected from creditors?
While joint trusts offer some level of protection, they are generally not as effective as other types of trusts for asset protection against creditors.

How does a joint trust affect estate taxes?
The impact on estate taxes can vary. Professional advice is crucial as joint trusts can have complex tax implications, especially for high-value estates.

Is a joint trust suitable for blended families?
It can be, but careful consideration and planning are needed to address the interests of children from previous relationships to avoid future conflicts.

What assets can be placed in a joint trust?
Most types of assets can be placed in a joint trust, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property.

Does a joint trust avoid probate?
Yes, one of the primary benefits of a joint trust is the avoidance of probate, allowing for a potentially quicker and private distribution of assets.

How does a joint trust work if both trustees die simultaneously?
The trust document should include provisions for this scenario, typically outlining the distribution of assets to named beneficiaries or secondary trustees who would manage the trust.

Contact Battlefront Legal

Christopher R. Harrison, Esq is a registered attorney in the state of Nevada who stands out as a highly creative trust attorney who is dedicated to tailoring a trust that perfectly aligns with your unique requirements. His approach to estate planning is both innovative and client-focused, ensuring that your trust is crafted to serve your needs effectively. 

If you’re looking to establish a trust that is as unique as your estate, reach out to Christopher Harrison. Call him today at (775) 539-0000 or click here to start the conversation about securing your legacy.