Testamentary Trusts

A testamentary trust is a type of trust that is created within a will and takes effect upon the death of the person who made the will (the testator). In Oregon, as in many other states, testamentary trusts can be established to address various estate planning goals and provide for the distribution and management of assets. As a Portland lawyer who specializes in estate planning, I have created numerous testamentary trusts for my clients and there are certain considerations to keep in mind. Here are some key aspects of testamentary trusts in Oregon:

  1. Creation within a Will: Testamentary trusts are not standalone trusts created during a person’s lifetime. Instead, they are incorporated into the testator’s will. The will specifies the terms, provisions, and beneficiaries of the trust.
  2. Delay in Trust Activation: Unlike revocable living trusts, which take effect immediately, testamentary trusts are activated only upon the death of the testator. At that point, assets designated for the trust are transferred into it, and the trust becomes an independent legal entity.
  3. Distribution Instructions: The testator’s will provides detailed instructions on how the trust assets should be distributed, when they should be distributed, and who the beneficiaries are. These instructions can be tailored to the testator’s specific wishes and circumstances.
  4. Trustee Appointment: The testator appoints a trustee in the will to manage the trust assets and ensure that the trust’s terms are carried out. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries.
  5. Types of Testamentary Trusts: There are various types of testamentary trusts, each designed to serve specific purposes. Some common types include:
    • Bypass Trusts: Used to reduce estate taxes for married couples.
    • Credit Shelter Trusts: Another name for a bypass trust.
    • Marital Trusts: Designed to provide for the surviving spouse while preserving assets for other beneficiaries.
    • Special Needs Trusts: Created to provide for beneficiaries with disabilities while preserving eligibility for government benefits.
    • Minor’s Trusts: Established to manage assets for minor beneficiaries until they reach a certain age.
  6. Estate Tax Considerations: Oregon has its own estate tax system with its exemption thresholds and rates. In Oregon, estates valued at over $1m are subject to state estate tax and estates valued at over $12.92m are subject to federal estate tax. Testamentary trusts may be used to maximize estate tax benefits for larger estates.
  7. Court Supervision: The probate court in Oregon oversees the administration of testamentary trusts to ensure that the trustee complies with the law and the terms of the trust. Essentially, the will itself must be “proven” in the court to ensure that it complies with Oregon law and it is a valid will. If so, the testamentary trust therein will be given effect. 
  8. Modification or Termination: Testamentary trusts are generally irrevocable, meaning they cannot be easily modified or terminated. However, under certain circumstances, a court may allow modifications or terminations. It should be noted that such permission is not commonly given by courts and a valid will with valid testamentary trust provisions is generally respected. 


Testamentary trusts can be valuable tools in estate planning, providing for the orderly distribution of assets and allowing for customized solutions to meet the needs of beneficiaries. Consulting with a Portland attorney who specializes in estate planning can help you create a testamentary trust that aligns with your goals and ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. If you have any questions regarding testamentary trusts or will, please contact Thapar Law at 503-295-9741 or send us a message

Client Reviews

Karn was absolutely amazing in helping our family’s estate planning. So professional and made the process so easy. A hell of a guy!!!

Beverley - Tigard, OR

Honest,efficient,fast and fair priced.

Mitchell - Clackamas, OR

Efficient, quick, friendly. An easy experience.

Loretta - Lake Oswego, OR

Karn is very easy to talk to! Professional, responsive, very engaging, explains the processes. Very honest World class Attorney!!

Joe - Happy Valley, OR

Karn was recommended to me by a friend who had worked with him in the past. He took the time to walk me through the estate planning process, addressed my many questions and at no point made me feel pressured to...

Amrit - Portland, OR

Get in Touch

  1. 1 Free Consultation
  2. 2 Experienced
  3. 3 Committed to Our Clients
Fill out the contact form or call us at 503-295-9741 to schedule your free consultation.

Leave Us a Message

Do You Prefer a Phone Call or Email Response? (Required)