How to establish a family trust in New York.

Understanding Family Trusts in New York

Establishing a family trust in New York is a strategic way to manage and protect your assets for the benefit of your family members. A trust is a legal entity that holds assets for the beneficiaries you designate, with a trustee managing the trust according to your specific instructions.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Family Trust

  1. Decide on the Type of Trust: In New York, you can choose between revocable and irrevocable trusts. A revocable trust can be changed or terminated by the grantor during their lifetime, while an irrevocable trust cannot be altered once it is created.
  2. Select the Trustee: The trustee will manage the trust assets. You may appoint yourself, a family member, a friend, or a professional trustee.
  3. Determine Your Beneficiaries: Clearly identify who will benefit from the trust, such as children or grandchildren.
  4. Create the Trust Document: This document outlines the terms of the trust, including distribution instructions. It's advisable to work with an attorney to ensure all legal requirements are met.
  5. Fund the Trust: Transfer assets into the trust's name. This may include real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property.
  6. Execute the Trust Agreement: Sign the document before a notary public to make it legally binding.
  7. Maintain Records: Keep detailed records of all trust transactions and communicate regularly with beneficiaries about their interests in the trust.

Historical Context and Examples

The use of trusts dates back centuries, with English common law influencing American trust law. For instance, the landmark case of Vanderpoel v. Gorman in 1881 helped shape New York's approach to fiduciary responsibility within trusts. Today, family trusts continue to evolve as effective estate planning tools.


Establishing a family trust in New York requires careful consideration and adherence to state laws. By following these steps and seeking legal advice, you can create a lasting legacy that safeguards your family's future.