Death of a Trustee & a Name Change on a Title

By Joe Stone

The death of a trustee under a living trust means the successor trustee, also named in the living trust, assumes the trustee’s duties. Since the trustee holds legal title to trust property, the property is held in the trustee's name. As a result, the successor trustee must prepare the necessary documents to change title to the trust property.

Successor Trustee Basics

A properly prepared trust document contains a provision for appointment of a successor trustee when the trustee dies. More than one alternate successor trustee may be named in the trust document as a means of resolving a situation in which the first-named successor trustee predeceases the original trustee or is otherwise unable or unwilling to carry out the duties of trustee. The successor trustee’s authority to act under the trust arises upon the death of the trustee; there is no need for court intervention or approval. The successor trustee should obtain the original trust document and determine what assets are included in the trust. For assets that typically include some form of registered title, such as real estate, bank accounts or stock certificates, the successor trustee must prepare the appropriate documents to transfer title from the original trustee’s name to his own name. In the event that none of the successor trustees named in the trust document are able to assume the trustee’s duties for whatever reason, an interested person will have to petition the court for appointment as successor trustee.

Death Certificate

To change title of trust assets and obtain possession of them, the successor trustee must provide third parties, such as financial institutions, proof of the trustee's death and existence of the trust. As evidence of the trustee's death, the successor trustee should use a certified copy of the trustee's death certificate. Several copies of the death certificate should be obtained as soon as possible after the trustee's death.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More

Certification of Trust

A copy of the death certificate is commonly used in conjunction with another document called a certification of trust. The certification provides a third party with evidence of the trust and successor trustee's authority to act under the trust. The successor trustee can prepare the certification in accordance with state law, which typically requires the certification be comprised of a short recitation of the facts to identify the trust, such as when it was created, the maker of the trust and name and address of the successor trustee. The certification usually includes certain assurances, such as stating the trust has not been revoked, modified or amended. In some instances, state law-approved forms for certification of trust can be obtained from a government office, such as the secretary of state. Often, a third party that regularly deals with name changes on titles will furnish a certification of trust that complies with state law.

Affidavit of Death of Trustee

The title to real estate included in a living trust is recorded with a local government office such as the county recorder, county clerk or court. Transferring title to real estate from the trustee's name to the successor trustee's name is accomplished by preparing and recording an Affidavit of Death of Trustee form with the appropriate office. An affidavit form is typically available from the government recording office or local law library.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More
Transferring Property From a Living Trust to a Successor Trustee



Related articles

How to Sign Documents As a Successor Trustee of a Living Trust

A living trust is a common document in estate planning that provides for an orderly transfer of property without having to go through the time and expense of probate court. One important aspect of the living trust is naming a successor trustee – the person who will be responsible for transferring the trust assets when the person who made the trust dies. If you are named as a successor trustee, you must perform the task of taking title to the trust assets and ensuring that the property is properly distributed to the trust beneficiaries. This task requires knowing how to sign trust-related documents.

How to Execute a Living Trust

A living trust allows a person known as a trust grantor to place his assets under the administration of a trustee, who then distributes these assets to trust beneficiaries as instructed by the grantor in the trust deed. The main advantage of a living trust is that since it is prepared while the grantor is still alive, it allows the grantor's property to pass to his beneficiaries, both before and after his death, without the expense and delays of probate. The administration of a living trust involves challenges, responsibilities and potential legal liability.

How to Transfer Title to Revocable Trust

A revocable trust is useful largely because it avoids probate proceedings after the death of a settlor. Assets titled in the name of the settlor usually go through probate, however. To avoid this outcome, revocable trust property is transferred into the name of the trustee. A revocable trust can hold many different types of property – real estate, vehicles, personal property such as office equipment, stocks and bonds, and bank accounts.

Doing the right thing has never been easier. Name Change

Related articles

How to Delete a Trustee From a Trust in California

A trust is a legal device that allows someone to place assets under the control of a trustee for distribution to ...

How Can I Change Title to Property in a Living Trust?

If you are the trustee of a living trust, you are responsible for managing the trust property and can change title to ...

How to Title Assets for a Trust

Transferring property from yourself to your revocable or irrevocable trust is known as funding the trust. Only assets ...

Does a Living Trust Need to Be Registered in North Carolina?

Living trusts, also called revocable trusts, are popular estate planning tools because they avoid the costs and delays ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED