How to Obtain a Copy of a Living Trust in California

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Obtain a Copy of a Living Trust in California

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A living trust is a legal mechanism through which the creator, or grantor, can transfer ownership of certain assets into the trust to be managed by a trustee on behalf of a beneficiary. The grantor and trustee are often the same person during the grantor's life. However, the grantor must designated a successor trustee to manage the trust when they die. When the grantor dies, the trustee is responsible for distributing the trust's assets to the beneficiaries according to the trust agreement. When the trust becomes irrevocable, the beneficiaries have certain rights, including the right to obtain a copy of the trust.

Middle aged man looking at laptop and flicking through papers

If you are a beneficiary to a living trust in California, follow these steps to obtain a copy of the trust.

1. Gather identifying documents.

In order to prove you are an actual beneficiary of a trust, you should gather any identifying documents, such as a passport, birth certificate, and a Social Security card.

2. Determine whether the trust is irrevocable.

In California, a beneficiary only has the right to obtain a copy of the trust when their rights have vested. Their rights vest when the trust becomes irrevocable, which is usually upon the death of the grantor. The trustee is not required to provide a copy of the trust to a beneficiary if the trust is revocable. By definition, a revocable trust can still be amended or cancelled, which means a beneficiary can still be added or removed.

3. Ask the trustee for a copy of the trust.

Once you have determined that your rights as a beneficiary have vested and the trust is irrevocable, ask the trustee for a copy of the trust. More times than not, the trustee will gladly provide you with a copy without any qualms. If the trustee refuses to give you a copy or does not provide you with all of the trust documents, proceed to this next step.

4. Send a certified letter to the trustee.

When the trust becomes irrevocable, the trustee is legally required to provide a copy to all designated beneficiaries within 60 days, according to California Probate Code Section 16061.7. This includes all trust documents, including any amendments.

In the certified letter, include your name, contact information, and legal basis for requesting a copy of the trust, including the relevant law entitling you to a copy. It may also be wise to include your right to file a petition with the probate court if the trustee continues to refuse your request.

5. File a petition with the probate court.

If the trustee has still not provided you with a copy of the trust, you can file a petition in probate court. The probate court can order the trustee to provide you with a copy under Section 16061.7. In your petition, you can request the probate court also order the trustee to pay all attorneys' fees and costs associated with the petition.

If you need to obtain a copy of a living trust in California, you'll want to first find out whether or not you have the authority to do so. If so, you can follow these steps , along with any additional local guidelines, to request a copy of it.

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