The only record of a trust is in the trust instructions. The creator of a family trust, also called a living trust, doesn’t have to record the trust, unlike a will, which needs to be filed with a court. However, you can find public records of certain assets held in the trust if you can't locate the trust document. Advantages of a trust include privacy following someone's death. Trusts avoid probate, which monitors asset distributions through the courts.
Instructions for the trust are kept with the manager, or trustee, of the trust. The creator of the trust, also known as a grantor, transfers assets into the fund during his lifetime. The trustee named by the creator distributes assets according to the instructions in the trust agreement or document. The person who created the trust could also be the trustee, which could cause difficulty if you don't know where the trust agreement is located.
You can see copies of the trust agreement and the assets that concern you if you know the trustee managing the fund. Copies of the trust agreement must be given to the beneficiaries in many states if you request them. You can at least see the sections of the trust agreement that concern you as a beneficiary upon request, depending on the state.
All property and real estate transactions must be recorded with local or county offices that record deeds. The trust creator changes titles of property when funding the trust. Any property transferred by the creator into the trust would have the title changed to the trust if that’s how the creator intended it. You could also find tax records of the person that indicate property ownership. The is true for real estate, automobiles, boats or any possession requiring a title change.
If the trust document hasn’t been made available to you because the creator has not assigned a trustee, you have to look in areas where the person might have placed important papers. You could start with file cases where important life insurance policies or other records are kept. Important documents have been discovered in unusual places, such as freezers or under mattresses. Banks where the deceased did business could have safe deposit boxes the person used to store the document.
Looking through the person’s checkbook could yield the names of people who might have copies of the trust. Estate planning attorneys handle trusts. Documents could be with a lawyer, unaware the person has died. The creator also might have sought advice about trusts from a financial adviser. Check with connections the person had with financial planners or attorneys in other states where a trust document could be filed. Living trusts are valid in all 50 states.
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