The Listen to Lawrence Letter: Does the trust have any effect on accounts that have beneficiaries and how I distribute my jewelry?

September 20, 2023
September 21, 2023 • Volume 4 Issue 175
Trusts have some limitations….read on.


In our trust, there was no one named specifically to receive jewelry. I now would like to assign certain pieces of jewelry to individuals.  Also, our bank accounts and stocks are not in the trust. We have assigned beneficiaries to these accounts. Does the trust have any effect on these accounts or the jewelry?


Trusts have an inherent limitation: they only control assets that they own. They have no effect on assets they do not own. Therefore, if the trust does not own your jewelry, bank accounts, and stocks, then the trust will have no power to distribute them. If the bank accounts and stocks have beneficiaries, then they pass automatically to the beneficiaries upon your death. If they have no beneficiary, then your will must be probated to distribute these assets. Most likely, the beneficiary of the will is the trust, so at that point, the trust will ultimately distribute these assets and the trust should have language to take care of this.

As for the jewelry, these types of tangible property do not have beneficiaries. Therefore, we usually just put language in the will that everyone will follow, even if the will is not probated. We also may simply ask you to prepare a letter spelling out who should get the jewelry, hoping that your children will play nice in the sandbox and just do the right thing regarding distribution. Nevertheless, it is possible to transfer the ownership of the jewelry to the trust and have language in the trust for its distribution, but this is rarely done.

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