In discussion of wills, you’ll often hear talk of trusts. What is a will trust, though? We’re going to take a look at the basics of wills and trusts here.


What does ‘in trust’ mean in a will?

Let’s consider an example. With a simple will, you might leave your house to your partner, with the assumption that, on your partner’s death, it will pass down to your children.

However, that isn’t necessarily the case. If the house belongs to your partner, there are circumstances that may mean it’s never inherited by your children. For example:


  • Your partner might marry someone else, and might leave the home to their new spouse upon their death, or might lose it in a divorce.
  • Your partner’s creditor might use an order of sale to force them to sell the house in order to pay a debt.
  • Your partner might need to go into a care home at some point, and the council might require the sale of the house to cover the care home fees.

So there are potential outcomes of simply leaving the house to your partner that you may want to avoid. However, you care about your partner and want to make sure they can still live in the house. What can you do in this situation?

This is where a trust can help.

If you leave your house in trust, the house isn’t technically owned by your partner. It’s owned by the trustees you choose, who might be reliable friends, family members or an organisation. However, you can dictate that your partner is allowed to live in the house for the rest of their life, without paying rent, and that the house must pass to your children after your partner’s death.

In other words, the trustees own the property, but, rather than benefitting from it themselves, they look after it on behalf of a beneficiary, in this case your partner.

So what does a trust mean in a will from the perspective of your loved ones? Essentially, in this example, your partner will enjoy the benefits of owning the house. However, because your partner isn’t technically the owner, the house is not considered part of their assets. This means your partner can’t leave it to someone else in their will, and cannot be forced to sell it to cover their debts.

You can set up the trust in such a way that your partner can still sell the house if they need to move, and the property they purchase with the proceeds would also be held in trust and ultimately pass to your children.

Be cautious about putting your home in trust solely to avoid care home fees. If the council thinks that’s the reason behind the trust, it might still include the value of the house in its calculation of your assets.

If you’re interested in knowing more about trusts, we have a more detailed guide to putting a house in trust in a will. Our guide to life interest trust wills also takes a look at how trusts work when money is involved, in addition to property.


Creating a trust in a will


Setting up a trust in a will is complicated, and it’s important to have professional help. Without assistance, your will may not express what you need it to, or may even be invalid, meaning your estate will be distributed as if you had died without a will.

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