Understanding Joint Trusts: Why Marriage Isn’t the Only Requirement

In the realm of estate planning, trusts serve as invaluable tools for asset management, distribution, and providing for loved ones. One common question that arises is the possibility of having a joint trust for individuals who aren’t married. While joint trusts are a popular choice for married couples, they might not be the most suitable option for unmarried individuals due to several reasons.

Legal Structure of Joint Trusts

A joint trust—often referred to as a joint revocable living trust—is typically established by married couples to manage their assets together. It allows them to pool their assets and share control over the trust. However, the legal structure and purpose of a joint trust can present challenges for unmarried individuals.

Shared Control and Decision-Making

One of the primary advantages of a joint trust for married couples is the shared control and decision-making. In the case of unmarried individuals, joint trusts might lead to complications as there’s no legal framework or marital relationship to regulate joint decision-making.

Potential Legal Complications

Unmarried individuals might encounter legal complexities when establishing a joint trust. State laws vary, and in some jurisdictions, joint trusts might not be explicitly recognized or regulated for unmarried individuals, leading to uncertainties or disputes over trust management.

Financial Independence and Protection

Maintaining financial independence might be a priority for unmarried individuals. Having separate trusts allows each individual to retain autonomy over their assets, protecting them from potential conflicts or liabilities that could arise from a joint trust structure.

Personal Objectives and Estate Planning Goals

Unmarried individuals might have different estate planning goals and beneficiaries than those of a married couple. Tailoring individual trusts allows for customized planning, ensuring assets are distributed according to personal wishes and individual circumstances.

Alternatives for Unmarried Individuals

For unmarried individuals seeking estate planning options similar to joint trusts, separate revocable living trusts can be established. These individual trusts offer similar benefits, including control over assets, flexibility in distribution, and provisions for heirs or beneficiaries.


While joint trusts are a valuable estate planning tool for married couples, they might not be the ideal choice for unmarried individuals due to legal complexities, potential conflicts, and differing objectives. Opting for separate trusts provides more tailored solutions and independence in managing assets.

When considering estate planning options, the Davis Schilken, PC team can help unmarried individuals navigate the complexities and choose the most suitable trust structures aligned with their specific needs and goals. Understanding the nuances between joint trusts and individual trusts ensures a more informed decision-making process for estate planning. Give our office a call to schedule a no obligation meeting with one of our attorneys (303)670-9855. We make estate planning simple.