July 9, 2010

Obtain a Copy of a Trust

If you are the beneficiary of a living trust, you are entitled to receive a full and complete copy of the trust upon request to the trustee in certain situations. The following is one example of such.

The applicable law states:

"the trustee shall provide a true and complete copy of the terms of the irrevocable trust, or irrevocable portion of the trust to each of the following, to any beneficiary of the trust who requests it and to any heir of a deceased settlor who requests it, when a revocable trust or any portion of a revocable trust becomes irrevocable because of the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust." Prob C § 16061.5(a)(1).

The follow-up question to this is, "when does a trust become irrevocable?" In almost all cases, a trust becomes irrevocable when the settlor (the person who drafted the trust) passes away. For example, Samuel  drafts a revocable trust and names himself trustee and beneficiary while he is alive. Upon Samuel's passing, the remainder beneficiary is his nephew Bobby while his brother Thaddeus is the successor trustee. Bobby may request a copy of the trust document from Thaddeus after Samuel passes away. Prob C § 16061.7(g)(5).

The ability to request a full and complete copy of the trust stems from the trustee's duty to keep the beneficiaries of a trust reasonably informed of the trust and its administration. Prob C § 16060. Of note, the duty imposed under Prob C § 16060 cannot be waived. Salter v. Lerner (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 118.

Furthermore, failure to provide a full and complete copy of the trust to the requesting beneficiary by the trustee is a breach of trust and hence grounds for removal. Prob C §15642(b).

The moral of this story (or blog post) is if you are a trustee, you should comply with the beneficiary's request to provide them with a copy of the trust document if the trust has become irrevocable.