In movies, you have probably seen a family gather around a lawyer's desk to hear the attorney read the will of their recently deceased relative. While this scene does a lot for exposition and building tension in a Hollywood production, estates can be much more complicated in the real world.
While the attorney may not call your whole family to her office, you may receive a letter regarding a revocable living trust. If you did not receive a message or you have misplaced it, there are ways to acquire the information you need.
Who Has Permission to See Trust Documents?
While a person's will is often public record once it has been filed in court, documents regarding a trust are not so easily accessible. Instead, only a few select people have the legal right to see the trust.
If the person who opened the trust named you as the successor trustee, you would have the right to access all files related to the document. In this case, it is your responsibility to settle the trust in the way the trust's creator intended.
Furthermore, you have the right to this information if you are named as the beneficiary or if you are the lawyer or accountant for the person who made the trust. In some states, you may have access to these documents if you are an heir, even if you are not named in the trust. Also, some states allow people who were previous beneficiaries to see the files, even if they were removed.
Contact the Attorney of Record
The information on trusts is revocable and remains sealed so long as the person who created the trust is alive. After the person who made a trust passes away, the most efficient way to find out if you are named as a beneficiary of his trust is to speak with his lawyer.
By law, the attorney should disclose the trust to all beneficiaries upon the passing of the client. However, if the lawyer has trouble reaching you or has the wrong mailing address, you may need to be the one to reach out.
Other People to Contact
If you're not sure who the attorney is or if the lawyer will not answer you, there are other people to whom you can reach out if you know who the trust's creator named as the successor trustee. This person is responsible for executing the trust.
You may also ask the deceased person's financial adviser, accountant or other financial representatives. Often, they can at least tell you the name of the attorney to contact.
Be sure to send requests for information in writing. Because some people are legally bound to provide information, it can be helpful to have a record of contact. This step can also help you stay organized.
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