Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the following question: "Do I Need to Have Notarized Copies of a Trust?"
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Hello, I'm Attorney Thomas Burton and welcome back to today's episode of our popular Question and Answer Series where I answer real reader questions from the State of Wisconsin.
Today's question comes from Madison, Wisconsin and the reader asks the following -
"Do I need to have notarized copies of a trust? I am co-trustee for an elderly friend who just passed away. There is only one notarized copy of the trust and her relative is the other co-trustee. We have to work together in all things but he lives in another state. When he returns there while I work on finishing up things here, should I keep the original trust here or make a notarized copy? Also can we use copies of notarized copies to open the bank account for paying the bills etc."
Okay, so, I'm sorry to hear about the death of your friend.
In terms of a trust, generally at my office when someone signs a trust, they will sign it in front of a notary. So the notary public will watch them sign and then notarize their signature attesting that they are who they say they are, when they sign the trust. So if you have that original, what I would call this the original trust document, the notarized wedding signatures, the notarized copy excuse me, the notarized trust document, the original, I would keep that. You could make a copy of this and give it to the other co-trustee.
So, keep the original, run a copy and give that to them because generally the great thing about trust is that we can often use copies or pdf scanned copies for places that need to see a copy of the original trust. So you and the other co-trustee could work out who keeps the actual paper version of the trust that was signed by the testator, the person who created it before they died and then like I said, you could make the complete copy, send that home with the other co-trustee and it sounds like you both need to agree on things as co-trustee, I'm not sure whatever the trust says, generally it would say you need to agree on decisions before proceeding. So you could consult with each other by phone or by video and then one of you could decide which one is going to carry out the administrative task.
So as long as the original trust is signed, dated and notarized correctly, usually the banks will accept a pdf copy or a printed copy that you give to them. Now what I don't, I'm not sure if you're asking but it's the original signed by the settlor, the testator that is notarized that you should be using. You don't need to go generally make another copy that you are signing in front of a notary, if that makes sense. It's the original one that needs to be presented to these various places and what I like to do is make a good, color pdf scan of that document and save it to a computer of the paper one you're referencing, because like I say oftentimes today, many financial institutions will either have a portal you upload it or you can email it to them, if they in fact need a copy.
As far as opening the bank account what you're going to need to do is get a tax ID for the trust, an EIN number and then you can go open the bank account.
I would recommend working with a qualified attorney to help you do this because you could bring in the original trust, explain what's going on, explain who the trustees are and then they could help you quickly apply and get that EIN from the IRS. Then once you receive that, you can go to the bank, open the bank account for the trust to administer the trust funds and that's a tax ID number and most trusts are going to need that, at least for a year or so, after death to wrap up administration of the trust.
So if this is a standard revocable trust, let's see, it doesn't say here but it's likely a lot of times a revocable living trust doesn't have a separate tax ID while the grantor or the settlor is alive, they just use their social security number. So after they die, that's why the trust has to go get a tax ID to open its own bank account and then the trust itself would need to, if it owes income tax, it would need to file its own income tax return after their death on any income to the trust that triggers that income tax filing return.
So that's where again a good attorney could advise you on the exact steps and help you get through the process.
So I hope that helps, answer your question about the notarized trust document. It's great they had a trust in place as it will likely ease the administration of the estate, especially with a co-trustee who is out of state. This can be more difficult with probate court, so it's great you're working together to administer this trust on behalf of your friend.
So great question, thank you for asking, thank you for tuning in and we'll see you next time.
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