An account in trust is a financial account that has split ownership. The trustee, or the manager of the account, controls the trust. The beneficiary, or the person who the trust is designed to benefit and be used for, gets to spend or enjoy the assets within the trust. The account is created by someone who designates both the trustee and beneficiary and who puts the assets into the account.
There are several aspects of property or asset ownership. The simplest form of property ownership allows the owner complete control over all aspects. This is called a fee simple absolute. If a person has a fee simple absolute, he can use the money or assets for anything he likes, and he can sell the property, transfer it or will it to his heirs.
Trusts are a more limited or different type of property ownership. The person who creates the trust doesn't want to give complete control over money or assets to the person he is creating it for. Instead, he wants to allow the person he creates it for — the beneficiary — to have some type of limited access to the money or assets. Commonly, the person creating the trust may wish to place a limit on what the money can be used for or may wish to set conditions that must be fulfilled before the beneficiary is able to access the money or assets.
An account in trust is one potential asset held in a trust. In such cases, the person creating the trust puts an account into someone else's name, but designates a manager. A parent may do this to pay for the college education of his child. For example, he can put money into an account in trust and stipulate that the beneficiary use it only to pay for educational expenses. The trustee will oversee it.
An account in trust can also refer to any savings account or financial account that one person monitors and oversees for another, even if no formal trust was created. For example, if a minor has savings or someone wishes to give savings to a child and put it in that child's name, the parents will have to open the account on behalf of the child. This is referred to as a custodial account and is an account in trust for the child. The parents manage and oversee it, but the money in the account actually belongs to the child.