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Testamentary Trusts: A Powerful Estate Planning Tool

    Comprehensive estate plans that incorporate trusts offer control, flexibility, and protection for your assets and beneficiaries

    When it comes to estate planning, the traditional approach is to distribute assets directly to beneficiaries upon death. However, testamentary trusts offer an alternative that allows for greater control and flexibility in asset distribution. This article explores testamentary trusts, their benefits, and important considerations to help you achieve your estate planning objectives.

    What is a Testamentary Trust?

    A testamentary trust is a trust or estate that is created upon the death of an individual, as specified in their Will. The assets held within the trust are managed by a trustee who distributes income and capital to beneficiaries according to the testator’s wishes.

    Benefits of Testamentary Trusts

    1. Control over asset distribution: Testamentary trusts enable you to determine the timing and manner in which assets are distributed to beneficiaries, allowing for more careful planning.
    2. Non-financial considerations: Testamentary trusts can address complex family situations such as providing for a disabled child, protecting beneficiaries who struggle with managing finances, and supporting grandchildren in need.
    3. Protection of beneficiaries with special needs: By establishing a testamentary trust, you can ensure that funds are set aside and managed by a trusted party for the long-term financial well-being of a child with disabilities, preserving their eligibility for provincial disability support.
    4. Trusts for minor children or beneficiaries unable to manage finances: Instead of leaving funds outright to minors or individuals who may not be capable of managing their finances, a testamentary trust can appoint a trustee to oversee and distribute the funds as needed.
    5. Education and other specific purposes: Testamentary trusts can be used to establish funds dedicated to specific purposes, such as funding the education expenses of children or grandchildren, ensuring your wishes are met.
    6. Control over asset distribution timing: If you have substantial assets and beneficiaries who are relatively young, a testamentary trust allows you to delay significant distributions until beneficiaries reach a certain level of maturity.
    7. Planning for blended families: Testamentary trusts provide a suitable vehicle to provide for all desired beneficiaries from different relationships or marriages, ensuring your estate plan meets the needs of your entire family.
    8. Preservation of assets: Testamentary trusts can be used to hold assets like family businesses or vacation properties, preserving ownership and ensuring continuity across generations.
    9. Wealth protection and management: By appointing a trustee, either an individual or a trust company, you can preserve and protect your wealth for your intended beneficiaries while entrusting the management of assets to capable professionals.

    Taxation of Testamentary Trusts

    Since 2016, testamentary trusts are subject to flat top-rate taxation, except for certain exceptions like spousal trusts or trusts for beneficiaries with disabilities. However, tax savings can be achieved by distributing income to beneficiaries who may be in lower tax brackets or investing in tax-efficient assets. Testamentary trusts may also be subject to the 21-year deemed disposition rule, requiring careful planning to minimize tax liabilities.

    Important Considerations and Next Steps

    Establishing a testamentary trust involves amending your Will, restructuring assets, and assessing potential probate fees. It’s essential to consult with legal, tax, and financial advisors to ensure the trust aligns with your goals and to navigate complex tax and legal considerations.


    Testamentary trusts offer a powerful tool for estate planning, providing control, flexibility, and protection for your assets and beneficiaries. By understanding the benefits and considerations associated with testamentary trusts, you can make informed decisions and create a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your wishes and safeguards your legacy.