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Considerations of Joint vs. Individual Trusts in Marriage


Learn the pros and cons of creating a joint trust rather than separate trusts for each spouse.

One of the basic questions estate planners must face when advising married couples on the structure of their estate plan is whether to create separate trusts for each spouse, or a joint trust created by both spouses. This is particularly true in community property states. However, joint trusts have grown in popularity in recent years, both among estate planning professionals and their clients. Given this trend, even estate planning attorneys in common law (sometimes called "separate property") jurisdictions must be prepared to discuss the potential benefits and risks associated with joint trusts when advising clients. This requires familiarity with the basic elements of joint trusts and the possible reasons for preferring a joint trust or separate trusts in any given situation. This topic will discuss the reasons joint trusts have become popular, the possible benefits of creating joint trusts for married clients, and the circumstances in which a joint trust may or may not be appropriate. You will learn the basic structure of a joint revocable trust, and will gain a greater understanding of the elements that should be included for purposes of asset protection, ease of administration, preservation or creation of community property status, as well as estate tax planning. You will also learn the potential tax, family law, and practical issues to consider when deciding whether to recommend a joint trust or separate trusts. This information will focus on issues relating to joint revocable trusts, but will also touch on issues relating to joint irrevocable trusts. Estate planners in community property and common law jurisdictions will benefit from this presentation.



Michael L. Graham, Esq.

Michael L. Graham, Esq.

Graham Law Firm P C

  • Chairman and former CEO of InterActive Legal; co-author of InterActive Legal practice systems
  • Attorney at Houser Firm, P.C., in Dallas, TX
  • More than 40 years of experience representing high net worth clients in estate planning and administration
  • Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate by the Texas Board of Legal Specializa-tion
  • Fellow, American College of Trust and Estate Counsel
  • Author of numerous articles and frequent presenter on topics relating to estate planning as well as legal technology
  • Graduate, Baylor University and Baylor School of Law
  • Can be contacted at [email protected]
Vanessa L. Kanaga, Esq.

Vanessa L. Kanaga, Esq.

InterActive Legal

  • CEO of InterActive Legal
  • Former associate attorney at Milbank (formerly, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy) and Moses & Singer in New York, and Hinkle Law Firm in Wichita, KS
  • Advanced certificate in estate planning, New York University Law School; certificate in business strategy, Cornell University
  • Author of several articles/blogs on estate planning topics
  • Frequent presenter of online webinars and moderator of InterActive Legal's Roundtable webinar series
  • Graduate, Wichita State University and Cornell Law School
  • Can be contacted at [email protected]

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