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What is a trust account?

Looking for a way to leave assets to your loved ones? Consider opening a trust account.

A trust account is a legal arrangement in which the grantor allows a third party, the trustee, to manage assets on behalf of the beneficiaries of the trust. A trust can provide legal protection for your assets and make sure those assets are distributed according to your wishes. Once the trust has been established, an investment account can be created. Although the beneficiaries hold the right to benefit from the trust, they have no authority to act on behalf of the trust assets.

Planning for your legacy or estate?

Take advantage of opportunities to grow your money until your family needs it.

Things you should know before you get started

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Minimum investment amounts

You'll need $3,000 to buy most Vanguard mutual funds, though there are some with lower or higher minimums.*

And you can invest in any ETF (exchange-traded fund) for the price of 1 share, which will vary throughout the day.

Other companies' funds may have different minimums, so be sure to check their prospectuses. And like ETFs, minimums for individual stocks, certificates of deposit (CDs), and bonds are based on their current market prices.


Your investment earnings—the money your money makes—will likely be taxed at the federal, state, and sometimes local levels. The tax rate depends largely on your income and how long you hold the investment.

You could shrink that tax bill by choosing tax-efficient investments.

Expectations for investment returns

Trying to find the fastest road to riches could put your hard-earned savings at risk just as quickly.

Particularly when making a shorter-term investment—less than 7–10 years, for example—you'll want to choose the combination of bonds and stocks that strikes the right balance between risk and reward.

Other investment costs

Some investments have obvious costs—like trading commissions and service fees. But keep a keen eye on expense ratios too. While they don't show up on your statement as a debit, they can take a serious bite out of your savings.

At Vanguard, you'll enjoy no commission to trade ETFs, stocks, and Vanguard mutual funds online. Our account service fees are easily avoidable,** and our expense ratios are 83% less than the industry average.† Put it all together, and you keep more of your money in your account, where it belongs.

Open a trust account in just 4 steps

It's easy to open a trust account online, and it takes just a few minutes.

Step 1

Legally establish your trust

For trust accounts, you’ll need to consult with an attorney to draft the details of your trust. Ensure this step is completed before starting your application; otherwise, we won’t be able to open your trust account. Once you have your official trust documents, create a digital copy of them to include with the application.

Step 2

Complete your application online

  1. Log in to your Vanguard account and follow the instructions to open a trust account.
  2. Have these 3 required items on hand:
    • A legally established trust with your attorney.
    • A completed trust account application, including personal information of the trustees, the type of trust, the date of the trust, and the trust’s tax identification number.
    • Supporting legal trust documents (as detailed below).
  3. Attach copies of relevant supporting legal trust documents. As part of federal regulatory requirements to prove your trust is established and in good standing, we need copies of pages from the legal documents used to establish the trust. Don’t include the entire trust document, only the relevant pages (usually the first and last) containing the following information:

    • For a trust under agreement:
      • The trust’s name and date.
      • The current trustees’ names.
      • All signature pages of the trust document.
    • For a trust under will:
      • The creation of the trust.
      • The trustees’ names.
      • The testator’s (decedent’s) signature.
      • Evidence that the will was filed with the probate court (e.g., a court stamp, a copy of the letters testamentary, or the court document appointing the trustees)
    • Special circumstances that require additional documents:
      • Successor trustees: If the trust ownership is being/has passed to you from someone else, provide additional documentation as to why the original/current trustee is no longer acting (i.e., death certificate, letter of incapacitation).
      • Sub-trust (e.g., marital trust, bypass trust, or generation-skipping trust): If this type of trust is being created underneath or because of an existing trust, include relevant pages from the trust documents that include the provision outlining the creation of the sub-trust and trustees’ names.

Note: Once we receive your completed application, it will take 5 business days to review, process, and open your account. Your request will be delayed if you don’t include all the requested documents and information.

Step 3

Fund your account

If it's coming from your bank, provide your bank account and routing numbers for an electronic transfer or your bank name and wire date for a wire transfer.

If it's coming from another investment company …

Step 4

Select your investments

Choose from more than 150 Vanguard mutual funds and 70 Vanguard ETFs®.

Browse a list of all Vanguard mutual funds & ETFs

You can also complement your portfolio with funds and ETFs from hundreds of other companies, as well as individual stocks, CDs, and bonds.

Check out all the investment products we offer

Open your account today

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Expense ratio

The annual operating expenses of a mutual fund or ETF (exchange-traded fund), expressed as a percentage of the fund's average net assets. It's calculated annually and removed from the fund's earnings before they're distributed to investors, directly reducing investors' returns.

An expense ratio includes management, administrative, marketing, and distribution fees. It doesn't include trading or sales commissions, loads, or purchase or redemption fees.

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Other types of taxable accounts

Uniform Gifts/Transfers to Minors Act (UGMA/UTMA) accounts, which are administered by an adult on behalf of a minor until the child reaches the age of majority (typically 18 years old).

Guardian accounts, which are administered by a court-appointed guardian or conservator.

Trust accounts, which hold assets held in a personal or retirement trust. This includes trusts created by a will.

Estate and other organization accounts, which are owned by an entity versus an individual person. This includes accounts held by corporations, partnerships, professional associations, endowments, foundations, and other organizations.