How to Obtain a Copy of a Living Trust in California

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A living trust is a means of transferring property to an individual or group of people. It is created by a person known as a settlor or grantor, who often acts as trustee, or manager of the trust, and names a successor trustee to manage and distribute the property in the trust upon his death. If you are a beneficiary named in the trust, you may want to obtain a copy of the living trust from the current trustee to see what property you are entitled to receive.

Gather identifying documents, such as a passport and birth certificate.

Determine whether the living trust is irrevocable, which means it cannot be changed. In most cases, a living trust becomes irrevocable when one or more of the persons who created the trust passes away. If the living trust is revocable, the trustee is not required to provide a copy of the trust.

Send a certified letter to the trustee(s) demanding a copy of the trust. Under California Law, you are entitled to a copy of an irrevocable trust if you are a beneficiary or heir of the settlor. In your demand letter, you should include your name, contact information, and basis for requesting a copy, such as your relationship to the settlor. If you anticipate there will be problems, you may also want to include a copy of the relevant law entitling you to a copy of the trust -- California Probate Code § 16061.5(a)(1) -- and the law imposing a duty on the trustee to furnish the copy -- California Probate Code § 16060.

Tips

  • The trustee has a fiduciary duty to give qualified individuals a copy of the living trust upon request. If a trustee refuses to supply you with a copy, you can file a petition to remove the individual as trustee. The petition must be filed with the Superior Court in the county where the settlor resided.

References

About the Author

Thomas King is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law where he served as managing editor of the "Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law." He currently lives in Aberdeen, Washington where he writes and practices law.

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