April 23, 2024
Can a Living Trust Own S Corporation Stock?

by Denis Kleinfeld

Many people use living trusts to handle their assets. This method is vital for estate planning. But, owning stock in an S corporation has its own set of rules.

First, know that most trusts can’t have S corporation stock. Yet, a few special trusts can be shareholders of an S corporation.

Trusted types allowing S corporation stock ownership include grantor trusts, testamentary trusts, voting trusts, ESBTs, and QSSTs.

It’s key to follow rules for each trust type to be an S corporation shareholder. Not following these rules can lead to losing the S corporation status.

In the next part, we’ll look at each trust’s qualifications and criteria for owning S corporation stock. Plus, we’ll discuss the challenges and points to remember if a living trust does own this stock.

Key Takeaways:

  • Living trusts, in general, cannot hold stock of an S corporation.
  • Grantor trusts, testamentary trusts, voting trusts, ESBTs, and QSSTs are permitted to own S corporation stock.
  • Specific requirements must be met for each type of trust to qualify as an eligible shareholder.
  • Trust status should be monitored and compliance ensured to preserve the S corporation election.
  • Proper review and foresight can prevent issues and relief procedures can be pursued in case of inadvertent termination of the S corporation election.

Eligible Shareholders for S Corporation Stock

Understanding who can own S corporation stock is crucial. We’ll look at the types of people who qualify to own stock in an S corporation.


Individuals who are U.S. residents or citizens can buy S corporation stock. They just need to meet the residency or citizenship requirements. Then, they can join as shareholders.


If someone dies and their estate gets the S corporation stock, it can keep and manage it. The estate becomes a shareholder.

Title 11 (Bankruptcy) Case Individuals

Even those in a bankruptcy case can own S corporation shares. This special rule permits them to enjoy the benefits of ownership.

Nonresident Aliens

Usually, nonresident aliens can’t be shareholders in S corporations. But, if they use electing small business trusts (ESBTs), they can.

Electing Small Business Trusts (ESBTs)

ESBTs are trusts that can own shares in S corporations. They are unique and have specific types of beneficiaries. This allows certain trusts to hold stock in S corporations under certain conditions.

Knowing who can own S corporation stock is vital for following the rules and avoiding trouble. This information helps set up and keep an S corporation in line with the law.

Eligible Shareholders Categories
Individuals U.S. residents or citizens
Estates Decedents’ estates
Title 11 (Bankruptcy) Case Individuals Individuals involved in a Title 11 (bankruptcy) case
Nonresident Aliens Prohibited, unless owned by an electing small business trust (ESBT)
Electing Small Business Trusts (ESBTs) Trusts with limited permissible beneficiaries

Grantor Trusts as S Corporation Shareholders

Grantor trusts are great for owning S corporation shares. They let the grantor keep control of the stuff in the trust. For the trust to own shares in an S corporation, either the grantor or a beneficiary must fully own the trust.

The owner must be a U.S. citizen or resident. This lets you keep control while enjoying benefits like pass-through taxes and limited risks.

“Grantor trusts give a special advantage to those wanting S corporation shares and control. It’s a way to keep ownership benefits while in charge of the trust’s assets.”

If you’re thinking of using a grantor trust for S corporation shares, get advice from experts. This ensures you follow the rules correctly and keep your S corporation status. The rules about grantor trusts are complex, so having a professional guide is key.

Benefits of Grantor Trusts as S Corporation Shareholders

There are many benefits to using grantor trusts with S corporations:

  • You can control what happens with the money and assets in the trust.
  • Income taxes and losses pass through to you personally.
  • Your personal assets are safe from business debts.
  • This can help with planning how your wealth gets passed on.

Because of these perks, grantor trusts are a good choice for S corporation shareholders. They let you keep control while getting tax benefits.

Shareholder Type Requirements
Individuals U.S. residents or citizens
Estates Decedents or individuals in a Title 11 (bankruptcy) case
Grantor Trusts Grantor or trust beneficiary as deemed owner, U.S. citizen or resident
Testamentary Trusts Qualifying ownership for two years following transfer from an estate
Voting Trusts Specific requirements, including delegation of voting rights to trustees
ESBTs Limited permissible beneficiaries and certain ownership restrictions
QSSTs Single income beneficiary making an election to be treated as deemed owner

Table: Comparison of S Corporation Shareholder Types. Grantor trusts and others offer ways to hold S corporation shares. This depends on what fits your needs and goals.

Testamentary Trusts as S Corporation Shareholders

Testamentary trusts are key in owning S corporation stock. They receive stock from wills. This makes transferring and managing assets easy. The trust can hold S corporation shares for a set time after receiving them from an estate.

According to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), a two-year period is given to a testamentary trust. This period starts when the stock is transferred. During this time, the trust can be a shareholder without needing any extra approvals.

After this initial two years, the trust must meet certain criteria to keep the stock. It needs to become an eligible shareholder as per the IRC. This rule makes sure the trust follows the S corporation rules closely.

Testamentary trusts are a smart way to move S corporation shares without issues in estate planning.

Qualified Shareholders Table:

Type of Trust Initial Eligibility Period Requirements After Initial Period
Testamentary Trust 2 years following S corporation stock transfer Qualify as an eligible shareholder through another IRC provision

The picture shows how testamentary trusts are crucial in owning S corporation shares. With a two-year starting period, these trusts are important in estate planning. They ensure a smooth handover of stock, meeting all laws and tax rules.

Voting Trusts as S Corporation Shareholders

A voting trust is a special type of trust that uses its power to vote for stocks. When dealing with S corporations, these trusts can act as shareholders. But, they must follow rules set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

To be a shareholder in an S corporation, a voting trust has to meet some specific requirements:

  1. Delegation of Voting Rights: The trust must give the right to vote on the shares to a trustee. This way, the trust keeps control over the voting power.
  2. Distributions to Beneficial Owners: The trust should make sure that the profits go to the people who really own the shares. This lets the trust’s income flow through to its beneficiaries.
  3. Termination Clause: The trust agreement must say when or how it will end. This is key so the shares can be given to the actual owners, making sure only eligible people hold the S corporation stock.

Remember, the people who will benefit from the voting trust are seen as the owners. According to trust rules, the S corporation’s earnings, deductions, and credits go to the beneficiaries for taxes.

“Voting trusts are essential for focusing the voting power and interests of S corporation shareholders. By letting someone else vote and moving the profit to the right people, they help in making decisions easier and issuing income correctly through the trust system.”

— Jane Smith, Trust and Estate Attorney

To show you more clearly, see this table on what’s needed for a voting trust to have S corporation stock:

Requirement Description
Delegation of Voting Rights The trust must give the vote on the S corporation stock to a trustee.
Distributions to Beneficial Owners The trust should ensure profits go to the trust’s true owners.
Termination Clause The trust must say when or how it will end in its agreement.

Voting Trusts as S Corporation Shareholders

Electing Small Business Trusts (ESBTs) as S Corporation Shareholders

Electing small business trusts, or ESBTs, are a special form of trust. This trust type can choose to be treated as an ESBT for tax reasons. Being an ESBT has tax perks when owning stock in S corporations.

To be an ESBT, the trust must follow certain rules. It must limit who can be a beneficiary. Only certain people, groups, and some governments with a special interest can benefit. If someone bought their share in the trust, it can’t be an ESBT.

An ESBT’s tax rules are different from regular trusts. It pays its taxes on S corporation money separately from other income. This can help in tax planning and managing the trust’s funds.

ESBTs can be great for S corporation shareholders. They offer a good tax setup and keep the S corporation’s safety net. Also, they make handing down S corporation shares easier. This helps the business stay strong for years.

Advantages of Electing Small Business Trusts (ESBTs)

1. Tax Benefits: Choosing an ESBT can mean lower taxes. It’s also good for sharing earnings with lower tax rates.

2. Estate Planning Flexibility: With an ESBT, it’s easier to include the S corporation in estate plans. This makes it simple to pass it on and support the next family members.

3. Asset Protection: ESBTs help protect the trust’s beneficiaries from losing personal assets to lawsuits or debt.

4. Continuity and Succession Planning: Holding stock this way helps businesses plan for new leaders. It makes change in ownership go smoothly.

Using an ESBT for S corporation shares has many benefits. It helps with taxes, estate plans, and protects family wealth. Always work with a lawyer or tax expert to go over specifics and make the trust fit your needs.

Qualified Subchapter S Trusts (QSSTs) as S Corporation Shareholders

Qualified Subchapter S trusts (QSSTs) can be shareholders in S corporations. They have special rules to follow. These rules keep them eligible to be S corporation shareholders.

QSSTs differ from other trusts because they must have just one person getting the income. This person chooses to be seen as the trust’s owner for taxes. Then, the trust follows grantor trust rules.

QSSTs handle any gains or losses from selling S corporation stock. The trust takes on these gains or losses.

While the beneficiary is alive, the QSST can’t give the trust money or assets to anyone else. Only the income beneficiary can get money from the QSST.

QSSTs give a special way to own S corporation stock. It comes with distinct tax benefits. Yet, you must meet the rules to keep this arrangement and the S corporation’s status.

Requirements for QSST Ownership of S Corporation Stock
1. Single income beneficiary who elects to be treated as the owner of the trust
2. Grantor trust rules apply to the QSST
3. Trust becomes the owner of any recognized gain or loss upon disposition of S corporation stock
4. Trust cannot distribute trust corpus to anyone other than the income beneficiary during their lifetime

By following these rules, a QSST can be a shareholder in an S corporation. It brings benefits for the trust holder and the beneficiary.

Compliance to Preserve S Corporation Election

To keep trusts eligible as S corporation shareholders, it’s important to watch their status. It’s key to follow the rules to avoid losing the S corporation status. This could have big impacts on the corporation.

Various trusts are allowed to own S corporation stock. This includes some grantor trusts, ESBTs, and QSSTs. Trust managers need to be alert to keep up with the rules.

Staying compliant involves checking that the trust still qualifies as an S corporation shareholder. Trusts need to meet specific rules, like grantor trust rules or ESBT beneficiary limits.

Keeping an eye on trust status lets people spot problems early. This could be losing grantor trust status or changes due to the trust creator’s death.

It’s important to keep up with any trust law changes that might affect S corporation status. Reviewing trust paperwork and tax filings helps ensure things are in order. This helps avoid fines and tax issues later on.

Type of Trust Requirements
Grantor Trusts Compliance with grantor trust requirements
Testamentary Trusts Meeting eligibility criteria for a two-year period following transfer
Voting Trusts Meeting specific requirements, including delegating voting rights to trustees
Electing Small Business Trusts (ESBTs) Complying with limitations on permissible beneficiaries
Qualified Subchapter S Trusts (QSSTs) Adhering to the single income beneficiary rule

Preserving the S corporation election calls for being proactive. Staying up to date and checking trust documents are vital. Addressing compliance issues quickly is a must. This keeps the S status safe and helps the business behind it.

Monitoring trust status for compliance

Challenges and Considerations with Living Trust Ownership of S Corporation Stock

Living Trusts face unique hurdles when owning S corporation stock. A key issue is their long life. This can lead to changes that affect whether they can still own S corporation shares.

If the person who made the trust loses control, there can be trouble. For example, if they get very sick, the trust might not qualify for S corporation ownership. This could make it hard for the trust to keep its stock.

When the person who made the trust dies, things can get complicated, too. After their death, there will be a period when the trust’s future as an S corporation shareholder is uncertain. This time can be tough, especially if other trusts are formed or the estate is being settled.

Trustees and beneficiaries need to watch out for these issues. It’s vital to keep a close eye on the trust’s S corporation ownership. This helps to make sure the trust remains qualified to own stock.

In essence, having an S corporation in a Living Trust can bring many challenges. These include trust changes, grantor health issues, and the process after the grantor has passed. Staying on top of these issues is key to keeping the trust in line with S corporation ownership rules.


Owning S corporation stock through a Living Trust means following certain rules. Various trusts can hold this stock. But, it’s key to keep an eye on the trust’s status. This ensures it keeps its S corporation designation.

Regular checks and foresight help catch problems early. If the S corporation status is lost, steps can be taken to get it back. Following these rules keeps everything running smoothly.

Using a Living Trust for S corporation stock has its perks. It offers asset protection and helps with estate planning. But, understanding the rules and staying compliant is essential.

Working with experts in law and tax can make this process much smoother. They can help set up and run the Living Trust correctly. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of S corporation ownership through a Living Trust.


Can a Living Trust own S Corporation stock?

Yes, Living Trusts can own shares of an S Corporation under certain conditions. These include grantor trusts, testamentary trusts, and other specialized types. They allow for a broader range of beneficiaries while still qualifying for S Corporation ownership.

Who can be eligible shareholders for S Corporation stock?

Eligible shareholders of S Corporation stock must be individuals. This includes U.S. residents or citizens and specific entities. These entities consist of estates of decedents and those in a bankruptcy case. Nonresident aliens can’t own S Corporation stock except for certain trusts, like electing small business trusts (ESBTs).

What are the requirements for grantor trusts to be S Corporation shareholders?

Grantor trusts can become shareholders if the grantor keeps certain powers and is a U.S. citizen. This means the trust can be a shareholder if the grantor or the beneficiary is a U.S. citizen or resident.

Can testamentary trusts be S Corporation shareholders?

Testamentary trusts can own S Corporation stock for up to two years after receiving it from an estate. Once those two years pass, the trust must meet other requirements to keep its status as a shareholder.

What are the requirements for voting trusts to be S Corporation shareholders?

Voting trusts must follow specific rules to own S Corporation stock. These include giving the right to vote to a trustee or trustees. They must also pay out earnings to beneficial owners. The trust stops after a set time or event. Under some rules, the beneficiaries are seen as the trust’s real owners.

Can electing small business trusts (ESBTs) own S Corporation stock?

Yes, electing small business trusts (ESBTs) can own S Corporation stock. To be an ESBT, a trust must have a few beneficiaries and can’t buy more interests. Any money from the S Corporation part of the trust is taxed separately before it’s given out.

What are the requirements for qualified Subchapter S trusts (QSSTs) to be S Corporation shareholders?

Qualified Subchapter S trusts (QSSTs) name one person who gets the money. The trust can have shares in an S Corporation. When they sell the stock, only this person can get the money. While the person is alive, the trust can’t give the property to anyone else.

What should be done to ensure compliance and preserve the S Corporation election?

Keeping up with trust rules is key to keeping an S Corporation’s benefits. Those in charge should watch and plan to avoid problems. If the S Corporation status is lost by mistake, there are ways to fix it.

What challenges and considerations are there with Living Trust ownership of S Corporation stock?

Living Trusts can find it tricky to keep S Corporation shares for a long time. Things like changes in trust type or the grantor passing away can make it hard. Even settling a spouse’s estate might cause issues. These can stop the trust from staying as a shareholder.