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What is a California Totten trust?

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2023 | Trusts

A Totten Trust is a bank account that transfers funds to a beneficiary after the account holder dies. As a California resident, you might establish this account to avoid your assets getting tied up in California’s probate court. To avoid confusion, remember that this type of trust is called a “payable-on-death bank account” or a “tentative trust.”

Establishing a Totten trust

You can open a Totten trust as part of your estate planning activities. It’s usually as simple as opening any bank account. You’ll choose the account’s beneficiary when you create the account.

Your choice of beneficiary matters because the beneficiary can access the account after your death. You can choose a good friend, a family member or an organization as the account’s beneficiary.

You maintain control of the trust while you’re alive. You can deposit or withdraw money from the trust, change the account’s beneficiary or close the account.


Avoiding probate is possibly the best benefit of a Totten trust. Probate is a process in which your assets and will are validated and distributed to your beneficiaries. Probate can last up to 12 months or several years, depending on the complexity of your estate.

The bank where you established the trust is responsible for validating the account. There’s no need for a probate court to get involved. As a result, the funds in the trust are transferred to the beneficiary promptly.

A Totten trust is worth considering if you want to protect your assets from probate. This will make it much easier for your beneficiary to receive funds from the trust. However, it helps to carefully consider whether or not a Totten trust is best for your situation.


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