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Does an Irrevocable Trust have to identify the beneficiaries??

Boston, MA |

What law or statue says that for the correct formation of a trust the beneficiary must be named?

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Attorney answers 4


It's common law -- the beneficiaries have to be identified, even if as a class like "my grandchildren."

E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.


If the trust did not have beneficiaries-the assets would remain in the trust forever after the death of the grantor.
The trust document can refer to a Schedule that lists the beneficiaries-this should be drafted by an attorney to make it work properly.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.


As noted by my collleagues, if a trust does not identify and/or have beneficiaries, it serves no persons and thus has no purpose. This is an essential and very basic requirement, and, is a matter of common law and simply assumed in the statutory law. "Common law" is a term that refers to the law as it has evolved such that it now is the law, as decided by hundreds (if not thousands) or years. In Massachusetts, and most of those states that formed a part of the original 13 colonies of the United States, as well as many others throughout the country, is based on English common law. In many instances, at least in Massachusetts, the statutory law is simply a codification of common law.

The trust instrument (or main body) itself does not identify the beneficiaries, but instead the beneficiaries are identified in a schedule (attachment, in essence) that is attached to and becomes a part of the trust as a whole, and must be created simultaneously with the main body of the trust in order for trust to be valid. Where real estate is involved, the trust instrument (or main body of the trust) or a certificate stating such a document does in fact exist (here in Massachusetts in any event) is recorded with the applicable registry of deeds where the real estate is located, before any real estate can be conveyed into the trust. The schedule of beneficiaries is not typically recorded, but instead is kept at the principal office of the trustee of the trust.

All trust instruments, in order to ensure validity and legality, should be drafted by an attorney.

Louisiana is one state that has civil law rather than common law, because it was originally a property of France, and civil law (which is all codified law) is prevalent on the European continent, as opposed to the British Isles.

No attorney-client relatonship is created in responding to this question, and advice provided is based solely on very limited facts presented, and therefore may not be correct. You are advised that it is always best to contact a competent and experienced with the practice of law in the county in which you reside, particularly as it relates to family law, child support, custody and visitation (a/k/a "parenting time") issues, including 209A abuse-prevention restraining orders (a/k/a "ROs" in legal-speak), regarding un-emancipated children, under the age of 22.

James Bunkey Swain

James Bunkey Swain


Excellent answer

Julie Court Molloy

Julie Court Molloy


Thank you, Counselor!


The trust has to have beneficiaries, but, as pointed out by Attorney Pippen, these beneficiaries don't have to be specifically identified in the body of the trust. They can be listed in a separate Schedule of Beneficiaries.

Please note: The above is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to establish and does not establish any attorney-client relationship.

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