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Trust document lost? Are you a Beneficiary?
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Request a Case Review Today

Call us at 949-706-7300

I can’t find Original Trust. I May have lost it. 

The original trust document details everything needed to administer a trust and its eventual termination and asset distribution. The grantor or trust maker is often the person in possession of the original trust documents. 

However, there are many scenarios where original trust documents may slip out of existence. After the grantor’s death, the beneficiaries may not know where to find the trust documents for one. They may not even know of the trust’s existence to begin with.

Trust document misplaced?

In the second scenario, the grantor misplaces it. The most frequent and effective storage option for trust documents is safety deposit boxes offered by banks. However, this is not always the number one option for everyone-and, so cases of trust documents getting lost at home are on the rise.

What happens when you lose original trust documents in California? 

To answer this question, we should first understand what is recorded in the trust document. Trust documents have the following: 

  • The name and type of the trust and date created
  • The name of the grantor, trustee, and beneficiaries
  • The goals and objectives of the trust
  • Trustee powers and terms of trust administration 

It is easy to see that the arrangement may not last or may not achieve the objectives spelled out by the trust maker without a trust document. It is like the Exodus without the Ten Commandments. 

How to get a copy of a trust document

So, what should you do to find a lost trust? Whether you are a trustee or a beneficiary, owning a copy of a trust document is elemental for proper trust administration and asset distribution. There are nine ways to solve this predicament.

1. Contact the trust attorney who was present during the creation of the trust. The success of this approach depends on two things. One, you should know who the lawyer is, and second, they should be alive and still in practice. 

2. Contact your investment adviser or tax preparer. Like California trust attorneys, the accountant and tax expert are equally frequently consulted during a trust formation. To move assets into the trust or to calculate taxation, they need to have trust documents. Reach out-they may still have a copy. 

Where a copy (not original) of the trust documents is found, you can work with a trust lawyer to restate the original deed’s terms. This is done through the Deed of Restatement. 

How to find a living trust in California

3. Contact the law firm whose trust attorneys drafted the document. The third time is a charm, but this option brings up the old argument of “lawyer vs. law firm.” If you chose an estate planning law firm, you might be in luck-after the drafting attorney retires, moves, or dies, the original trust documents are transferred to a succeeding attorney in the same law firm. 

4. Call the California Bar Association (CBA). When a trust lawyer dies, the trustee is obligated to report to the bar and notify them whether legal documents or the client has been bartered to another attorney. So, if you have lost the trust document and cannot get hold of the drafting law farm, call CBA. 

I can’t find a copy of the original trust in California.

5. Start over. If you have exhausted every avenue and still cannot find the original trust documents, consider revising the estate plan. This is for grantors only. Hess Verdon is a team of advanced estate planning attorneys who can help you in trust restatement to declare that your new terms override/replace old terms. 

6. Reach out to your spouse, partner, successor, or beneficiaries of the trust. There should be at least one person who knows about the trust in your family or among your friends. Maybe they know the location of the original documents, or they kept a copy. 

7. Ask the courts for direction. One other solution is turning to the courts for guidance. The judge may help confirm the original trust terms or provide instructions on admiration or dissolution in the absence of trust documents. This prevents disputes between trustees and beneficiaries. 

8. Create and implement a deed of variation. This is when the trust beneficiaries unanimously agree on new terms for trust administration or closure and distribution. You should obtain signatures from all beneficiaries. Consider working closely with an experienced trust lawyer. 

9. Terminate and roll over, then create a new trust: As a grantor, the last option if you cannot find the original or copy of the trust document is closing the trust and returning the assets to your estate. You can then create a new trust with the same objectives as the old one. 

In summary

Trust documents are as critical as real estate title deeds, or IRA documents-please store them in a bank safety deposit box. If you keep them at home, put them in a waterproof and fireproof box. Let someone know about the location-someone close to you. If you cannot find the trust document, seek legal advice soonest possible. At Hess Verdon, our phone lines are open for you. Call (949) 706-7300.


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Trust & Estate Litigation

Estate Planning & Advanced How To Find Out If You Are A Beneficiary Of A Trust Estate Planning

An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you plan your estate; they will look into your financial situation, family needs and advise on a suitable plan. They will also help with the preparation of documents to protect your assets against taxes and lawsuits. These include titles, last will and testament, power of attorney, advance directives, and living will and trusts. 

How To Find Out If You Are A Beneficiary Of A Trust

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What are some reasons a family trust can be contested?

A Family Trust, which includes a revocable and irrevocable Trusts are contestable. When the Successor Trustee has taken over, there is an allotted time that beneficiaries have to contest the Trust. Make sure you are within your time limits to fight the Trust. A Trust Attorney can help you, at a minimum, understand your next few steps. It’s highly advisable to be “reasonable” throughout the process to ensure you stay on the right side of the courts. 

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