Honorary Trust


The term honorary trust refers to an arrangement that does not identify a human being or charitable organization as a beneficiary.  Honorary trusts are typically established to care for a pet or the maintenance of an asset.


Honorary trusts derive their name from the fact the wishes of the donor do not include a beneficiary that can legally enforce the terms of the agreement.  These types of trusts rely on the "honor" of the trustee; they are not enforceable by statute.  However, if the trustee does not fulfill their obligation to the donor, and they possess assets of the donor, then the donor's heirs have a right to the assets.  This is referred to as a resulting trust.

Jurisdictions that allow for honorary trusts typically specify they can be used for two purposes:  the care for the donor's pet, and to provide for the maintenance of an asset like a cemetery plot.  For example, an honorary trust may provide funds for the care of graves, the building of a monument, the care of a pet (such as a dog, cat, or horse), and even the saying of mass in church.

Even in jurisdictions that allow honorary trusts, the purpose of the trust cannot be whimsical or unstructured.  It must be established for a very specific, and legal, purpose and the duration of the trust must have a limit.

Related Terms

executed trust, executory trust, express trust, generation-skipping trust