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Totten Trusts

A Savings Account Trust (also called a ‘tentative trust’ or ‘Totten Trust named after the case In Re Totten, 71 N.E. 748 (N.Y. 1904)) is a form of multiple-party bank accounts where a person deposits funds in the depositor’s name as trustee for another person. Totten trusts are valid, by case law or statute, in the majority of jurisdictions. Such trusts are not considered part of a deceased person's estate and thus will not be passed through probate or calculated into estate tax. They are private.

Generally, a depositor can revoke the savings account by:

  • manifestation of such intent,

  • by withdrawal of any part of the whole of the funds on deposit (the withdrawal operating as a revocation to the extent of such withdrawal), or,

  • by a disposition in the depositor’s will of the deposit in favor of another beneficiary.

The depositor can make the savings account trust irrevocable by:

  • manifestation of such intent,

  • delivery of the passbook to the beneficiary, or,

  • notice to the beneficiary.

The trust becomes irrevocable when the depositor predeceases the beneficiary without revocation, thereby entitling the beneficiary to the balance remaining in the account.

In California, Totten trusts are governed by legislation and in such an account, it is not essential that payment to the beneficiary be mentioned in the deposit agreement in accordance with California Probate Code § 80. Rather, it is often created through a form provided by your bank. The depositor completes the form and designates who they would like to be the beneficiary of the trust.

It is beneficial to retain experienced and professional attorneys to assist with the creation of your Totten trust, especially in preparing detailed instructions on who to be designated and any required information needed to access the account. Please call Aziz Legal by phone at (408) 203-4627 or email us at

This article is merely informational and is not intended to be used as legal advice. Use of any information from this article is for general information only and does not represent personal legal or tax advice, either express or implied. Readers are encouraged to consult Aziz Legal, or another attorney, for any specific legal matters.

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