WHAT'S THE LAW?
Most trusts kept out of Probate Court
Question: My attorney died, and now I'm left hanging and don't know what my children should do when I die. I checked at Probate Court; he is not listed there and I am not listed. Does a trust have to be filed? I have my documents for this trust. What court should it be filed at if it needs to be filed? Do I need a lawyer?
Answer: From Janet Kelly, Legal Aid attorney: I'm assuming you're referring to a revocable living trust (RLT). Usually, RLTs are not filed, as one of their features is to promote confidentiality. When a will goes through probate, all assets and distributions become public record. Assuming the RLT is managed properly and there is no need to go through probate, your assets and the distribution are confidential and known only to the successor trustee and beneficiaries. Sometimes a summary of the trust, such as a short form trust or affidavit of trust, is filed with the Bureau of Conveyances for purposes like acquiring a mortgage that might be part of the trust. These documents do not contain lists of assets or distribution plans you might have. The summaries usually contain information such as who the trustees are, what the powers of the trustee are, etc. Documents filed with the Bureau of Conveyances need to conform to its recording rules and procedures. You don't need a lawyer for this, but you might need guidance as Bureau staff cannot provide legal advice. You should probably keep your original documents in a secure location (e.g., home safe, safety deposit box). Let your successor trustees know where the documents are, along with any keys or combinations so they can get to the documents when needed. If you use a safety deposit box, make sure someone else has access, as banks have strict rules, and if no one else has access, your successor might need to go to court to get the box opened. If it has been a few years since your RLT was drafted, you might want to review your documents to be sure that they are still meeting your goals, in addition to updating any old information, such as new successor trustees or beneficiaries.
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