Losing trust documents happens more often than people realize. The problem with losing trust documents is that there is no way of determining who has been named as trustee and beneficiary, and what the terms of the trust entail. Because trusts are private agreements and not recorded anywhere, you cannot go to probate court or a courthouse to ask for a copy of the trust.
So, how do you prove a trust exists without a copy of the trust? How do you determine a trustee without a copy of the trust?
If you don’t have a copy of the trust, proving its existence may be a tedious task. The ideal scenario would be to contact the attorney who drafted the trust. If you do not know who the attorney is, or if they have retired or died, proving the trust becomes more difficult.
In such a situation, your best option would be to hire an attorney. Your attorney can file a declaratory order with the court which will provide clarification on the uncertainty of the trust. For example, once your attorney files the order, the court will then determine whether the trust still exists and who the current trustee is. If there is no current trustee, the court will appoint one. Having evidence of a trust can also be helpful in proving its existence and will benefit your attorney in proving so. Evidence of a trust can be found through other sources such as a deed or a contract. The determination of a trustee without a copy of the trust will generally come from the court. Because there is no copy or original documents to prove the trust existed, the court will determine this from those documents (a deed, a contract, etc.) that you provide as proof of the trust’s existence.
How do you store trust documents?
The best way to store trust documents and avoid losing original documents or copies is to keep them in the same place you keep your other important documents. For example, if you have a location in your home with your passport, birth certificates, and other important documents, it might be a good idea to place your trust documents there as well. To be extra cautious, a safe deposit box is also a good choice to store these documents. However, it is important to make sure that you name your successor trustee or other individual as an authorized individual to access the safe deposit box so they can access those documents if you become disabled or pass away. Otherwise, your successor trustee would need to obtain a court order to access the safe deposit box and its contents. For example, you may want to authorize access to your parents, siblings, or significant other so that they can access the documents if you one day cannot.