A certification of trust is a type of estate planning document commonly used in the administration of trusts. A certification of trust is a short or abbreviated document that contains certain facts or information about a trust, such as the name of the person that made the trust, the name of the trustee, etc. A certificate of trust may be used to confirm that the trust exists or verify the trustee's authority. When appropriate, a certificate of trust may act as a substitute for providing the full trust document.
A certification of trust may be provided to banks, financial institutions, brokers, and other parties dealing with the trust in lieu of providing a copy of all of the terms of the trust. For example, a trustee may be asked to provide a certificate of trust to
open a trust account.Providing a certification of trust instead of the full trust document makes it easier to keep information about the trust confidential, such as the names of beneficiaries and the amount of property held by the trust. It also allows people and entities that need to deal with the trust to get pertinent details about the trust without having to review a very long legal document to find this information.
Can You Rely on a Certificate of Trust?
Because estate planning trusts are typically set up and administered privately, it can be difficult to independently verify certain facts regarding the trust, the maker of the trust, and the individuals authorized to act on its behalf. If you are going to engage in a transaction regarding trust property or perform services for a trustee, it is important to determine whether and to what extent you can rely on a Certification of Trust or other documents presented by the trustee. A good starting point is to review applicable state laws regarding trust certifications. Reliance on representations in a Certificate of Trust is addressed in state statutes and common law. If you have concerns about the legitimacy of a Certification of Trust or the sufficiency of the disclosures therein, consult an attorney. Because you may be liable for actions taken in regard to a trust or a transaction involving trust property, make sure you are complying with the law whenever a Certification of Trust is involved.
Reasons to Use a Certification of Trust
A certification of trust may be used by a settlor or trustor of a trust and by the trustee for several reasons. First, this type of document allows the person making the trust or the trustee to handle various transactions involving the trust without disclosing the entire trust document. Because one of the
benefits of living trusts and other types of trusts is privacy, using a certification of trust is a way to handle the steps involved in funding, maintaining, and settling a trust without revealing information the person making the trust or the beneficiaries would like to keep private.
Providing a certification of trust to an individual other than a beneficiary that requires information about the trust is a way for them to confirm the trustee's authority to engage in transactions involving trust property without providing broad access to the contents of the trust document.
How to Get a Certification of Trust
If the trust document was prepared by a licensed attorney, the full set of trust documents provided to the settlor may have included a certification of trust. This type of document is routinely prepared by the estate planning lawyer at the same time the trust is drafted.If the settlor or trustee cannot locate the original certification of trust or this document was not prepared when the trust was executed, contact the attorney that prepared the estate plan. He or she should be able to prepare a certification of trust document. If you made the trust without a lawyer, go to
finding an attorney.The individual or institution requesting the certification of trust will usually need the document to meet certain mandatory requirements. A list of what should be included in a certification of trust is often set forth in applicable state statutes, such as the state's trust code. See
Trust Law. To ensure the certification of trust meets these requirements and is prepared correctly, do not attempt to make your own certification of trust. Because a certification of trust is typically a brief one to two page document, it should be relatively inexpensive for your attorney to prepare.
What is in a Certification of Trust Form?
The list of items that should be included in a certification of trust vary depending on factors such as state law, the type of trust, and the terms of the trust. However, there are some key elements that are often set forth in a standard certification of trust document. For example, it may be mandatory under state law for the document to state that the trust has not been revoked, modified or amended in any manner that would cause representations in the certification to be incorrect. For a list of items that are usually included in a certification of trust, go to
Certificate of Trust Form. Only a licensed attorney familiar with the provisions of the trust and applicable state laws can provide advice on how to prepare your living trust and trust administration documents.
Disclosing Information About the Trust
It is essential for trustees to understand how to handle information about the trust. Whether the trustee has a duty to disclose or provide information about the trust depends on several factors, such as the requesting party's relationship to the trust, the type of information being requested, the terms of the trust, and
Although it is appropriate to use a certification of trust when handling some aspects of trust administration, a certificate of trust should not be used to limit the right of beneficiaries to obtain a copy of the trust. For a brief overview of who can get information about a living trust or similar type of estate planning trust, see
right to information about trust.