Does a Trust Avoid Probate?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on February 27, 2024

Get Any Financial Question Answered

Does a Trust Avoid Probate?

Yes, a properly set up and funded trust can avoid probate. When assets are placed into a trust, they are legally owned by the trust, not the individual.

Therefore, upon the individual's death, these assets are not subject to the probate process. Instead, the designated trustee manages the distribution of assets directly to the named beneficiaries as per the terms of the trust.

This process allows for a faster, more private distribution of assets compared to probate.

However, it's important to note that not all types of trusts can avoid probate - for instance, testamentary trusts, which are created through a will, do not bypass probate. Proper legal advice is advised to ensure the trust is set up correctly.

Hear It From Taylor

Taylor Kovar, CFP®

CEO & Founder

(936) 899 - 5629

[email protected]

I'm Taylor Kovar, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), specializing in helping business owners with strategic financial planning.

By holding your assets in a trust, you allow them to be transferred directly to your beneficiaries upon your death, bypassing the time-consuming and often costly probate process. This means your loved ones can gain quicker access to assets with less hassle. If you are looking to streamline the inheritance process and ensure a smooth transition of your assets, setting up a trust might be a smart financial move.

Contact me at (936) 899 - 5629 or [email protected] to discuss how we can achieve your financial objectives.


  • Fee-Only Financial Advisor
  • Certified Financial Planner™
  • 3x Investopedia Top 100 Advisor
  • Author of The 5 Money Personalities & Keynote Speaker


Business Owners, Executives & Medical Professionals


Strategic Planning, Alternative Investments, Stock Options & Wealth Preservation

Mechanism of Trusts in Avoiding Probate

How Assets Are Managed in a Trust

Assets in a trust are managed by the trustee. They are responsible for maintaining the assets, making investment decisions, and, upon the grantor's death, distributing the assets to the designated beneficiaries according to the trust's terms.

Transfer of Ownership in a Trust

When assets are placed in a trust, their ownership is transferred from the individual to the trust. This means that upon the individual's death, the assets are not considered part of the deceased's estate for probate purposes and can bypass probate.

Trusts vs No Trusts in Probate

Consider two scenarios: one where a deceased person has trust in place and one without. In the former scenario, the trust assets can be transferred to beneficiaries almost immediately after death.

In contrast, without a trust, the estate must go through probate, which can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Types of Trusts That Avoid Probate

Several types of trusts can help avoid probate, offering a quicker and more private means of transferring assets upon death. Here are a few:

Revocable Living Trusts

Also known as inter vivos trusts, are created during the trust maker's lifetime. The trust maker can alter, change, modify, or revoke the trust at any time.

Upon their death, the trust becomes irrevocable, and the successor trustee distributes the assets to the beneficiaries as per the trust terms, bypassing probate.

Irrevocable Trusts

Once created, these trusts cannot be altered or revoked without the consent of the beneficiaries. Transferring assets into this kind of trust removes them from the trust maker's taxable estate, meaning they're not subject to probate or estate taxes.

Marital or "A-B" Trusts

These are designed to provide benefits to a surviving spouse while also making the most of estate tax exemptions. They can bypass probate but involve more complexity.

Credit Shelter Trusts

These trusts allow the trust maker to dictate how their assets are distributed beyond the spouse's death and avoid estate taxes.

Generation-Skipping Trusts

These permit trust assets to be distributed to grandchildren, or later generations, bypassing probate and potentially reducing estate taxes.

Types of Trusts That Can Help Avoid Probate

Common Misconceptions About Trusts and Probate

“All Trusts Avoid Probate”

Not all trusts avoid probate. For instance, a testamentary trust, created through the instructions of a will, does not avoid probate since it comes into existence after the individual's death and the will's validation.

Trusts and Estate Taxes

While trusts can provide various benefits, they do not inherently avoid or reduce estate taxes. The estate tax implications are determined by the type of trust and the specific provisions it contains.

Cost of Setting up a Trust

There is a common belief that trusts are costly to establish. While there are costs involved, the upfront cost of creating a trust can be significantly less than the cost, delay, and loss of privacy associated with probate.

Common Misconceptions About Trusts and Probate

Other Methods of Avoiding Probate

Joint Ownership

Joint ownership with the right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety (for married couples) can avoid probate. When one owner dies, the surviving owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the property.

Beneficiary Designations

Certain assets allow for beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and some bank accounts. Upon the owner's death, these assets are directly transferred to the designated beneficiaries, avoiding probate.

Payable on Death and Transfer on Death Arrangements

Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) arrangements are available for bank accounts and securities, respectively. These assets will be transferred directly to the named beneficiaries upon the owner's death, bypassing probate.

Consultation With Estate Planning Experts

Importance of Legal Advice

While it is possible to establish trust on your own, professional legal advice is often beneficial to ensure your trust is correctly set up to meet your specific needs and to fully take advantage of the potential benefits.

How an Attorney Can Help

An attorney can provide guidance on the appropriate type of trust for your situation, assist in drafting the trust document, and help transfer assets into the trust. An attorney can also help navigate complex issues, such as estate taxes and potential creditor claims.

Bottom Line

Trusts serve as effective tools in estate planning to bypass probate, facilitating quicker and more private distribution of assets.

They offer control over how and when assets are distributed, with types like revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and various specialized trusts offering probate avoidance.

However, not all trusts bypass probate—testamentary trusts, for example, don't offer this advantage.

Other probate avoidance methods exist, such as joint ownership and beneficiary designations, each with its own merits.

While setting up a trust involves costs, they often outweigh the financial and temporal demands of probate. Misconceptions surrounding trusts underline the importance of professional legal advice.

A competent attorney can guide you through the process, helping you choose the right trust for your circumstances, navigate potential tax implications, and ensure your assets are correctly transferred into the trust.

Does a Trust Avoid Probate? FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Search Estate Planning Law Firms in Your Area