3 minute read

What Happens if You Lose Your Trust Documents?

If you lose your Trust Documents, don’t panic! We’ll tell you everything you need to know to ensure your Estate Plan stays intact.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

It isn't uncommon for Trust documents to go missing. You think it's safe in one place, that you've taken care of where your assets will go in life and after death, and that you can relax. That is until you go to look it over or update it, and suddenly, it's nowhere to be found.

If you've gone to look over the specifics of your Trust but couldn't seem to remember where you put it and can't find a copy anywhere, know that you're not alone.

Trust documents are frequently misplaced, lost during moves, accidentally thrown out, or destroyed. A Trust can also get locked inside a safe deposit box if it's closed out after someone's death. Ironic, considering people tend to put their Estate Plans in a safe deposit box for safekeeping.

Alternatively, if a loved one has died and you can't find their Trust, you may be wondering what you can do. Here, we'll go through the options available should your Trust documents go missing.

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What is a Trust?

A Revocable Living Trust is a legally-binding document that details the management, control, and distribution of someone's assets during life and after death. It is revocable, as the contents of a Trust change throughout someone's life. The Trustor, or creator of the Trust, maintains ownership of it until they die.

A Trust is a way to transfer assets and property after someone's death outside of Probate Court. This is the court system responsible for settling Wills, Trusts, Conservatorships, and Guardianships. Probate Court is both time-consuming and expensive, with the power to hold Heirs, Beneficiaries, and Trustees up for months. According to California Probate Code, Probate Court can cost your Estate an additional 2 to 4 percent in attorney's fees and court costs.

What to Do if You Have Lost Your Own Trust Documents

If an attorney prepared your Trust, your first course of action is to contact them. If they don't have the original, they should have a copy of your documents on file.

If you have lost your Trust documents and can't find a copy, you will need to revoke the lost Trust. Then, you can create a new Trust to replace the old one. A Revocable Living Trust is included in Trust & Will's Trust-Based Estate Plan.

Creating a Trust can be overwhelming, even if you're doing it for the second time. Luckily, Trust & Will is changing how we think of Estate Planning. Their process makes it simpler than ever to create a Trust-Based Estate Plan that is fully customizable to your needs. With Trust & Will, you can create a Living Trust online in no time—less than 15 minutes, in fact.

You can only have one set of Trust documents. If a Trust is lost, it may be presumed to be revoked. If you create a new Trust and find the old one, the Trust with the latest date will replace the others.

If You Can't Locate a Loved One's Trust Documents

When someone creates a Living Trust, they are typically the only one with access to it. Trusts are private documents. They are never entered into the public record, even after someone has died. This means that the court doesn't know what is included in any Trust, leaving someone with few options to find a loved one's missing documents.

The good news is that they may have shared a copy of their Trust with a family member or other trusted person. They may have been allowed to read it or, someone may have told them secondhand what was in it.

If you cannot find a loved one's Trust documents, you may end up in Probate Court. Avoiding Probate Court is a specific benefit of creating a Living Trust, so this outcome wouldn't be ideal for anyone involved. In this case, if you and other loved ones saw or read a Trust, you may provide testimony to the court regarding its contents. The Probate Court then distributes assets and property from an Estate to its intended beneficiaries.

How to Keep Your Trust Documents Safe

A Trust includes critical information about the passing of someone's assets and property in the event of their death. It isn't a document that you want to lose when you need it most. Here's how you can keep your Trust documents safe:

  • Make copies: Once you complete and finalize your Trust, make several copies. Keep one at home, one in your office, and anywhere else you spend a significant amount of time. You might also consider giving your Trustees copies of your Trust. This will ensure that they receive what you intend to give in the event of your death, no matter what.

  • Invest in a fire/waterproof safe: It's important to keep your physical documents in a safe place, away from the elements, pets, and young children. If your safe has a key or combination, consider sharing it with a spouse or someone you trust.

  • Keep a digital copy: Even if you make multiple copies, there's still a chance that the hard copies of your Trust can go missing. An unfortunate truth about Trusts is that even if you take every precaution, someone can still destroy your documents if they don't like what it says. A digital copy can help ensure your will if the physical copies are lost or destroyed.

Create a Trust-Based Estate Plan with Trust & Will

A Trust allows for your property to pass seamlessly to one or more beneficiaries while avoiding Probate Court. Trust & Will's Trust-Based Estate Plan includes a Revocable Living Trust, Pour-Over Will, HIPAA Authorization for protected health information, a Living Will, and Power of Attorney. It is the most comprehensive and complete way to protect your assets and loved ones.

Trust & Will is a leader in Estate Planning. Their fully customizable process allows you to create or update any of your Estate Planning documents. The documents you receive from them are state-specific, created by knowledgeable attorneys, and customized by you. Create your Trust today.