If anything happens to you, your successor trustees should execute a new document called an Acceptance of Successor Trustee. They will be able to provide a copy of the acceptance to whoever needs it. Ultimately, the successor trustees should have the original and amendments but there is no reason to provide the original pages at this time.
Many trusts state that copies are equivalent to originals but I would suggest having one set of originals of all trusts and amendments. I take your question to mean that you are a "do it yourself" person. I know you've probably heard this before but please be careful and tread lightly. I also should point out that most people may place an account in the trust with trust titling but they don't change the actual trust (disposition of assets) when they open a new bank account or am I misunderstanding? I also generally advise clients its a bad idea to use safe deposit boxes due to the fact that executors/successor trustees often times have a hard time getting into safe deposit boxes - its a good idea if you trust these people to make sure they have access to the original documents so that the transition is smooth when it happens.
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A copy of your trust does not have the same legal force and effect and your original documents. Your successor trustee should have access to your original trust once you are unable to handle the affairs of the trust or are no longer living. Although it is understandable that you would not want your successor trustee to have present access to your safe, there may come a time, after your death for example, when the successor trustee will need to have access to the trust documents as soon as possible. It is really not necessary for the successor trustee to have copies of your trust until that successor assumes his/her trustee duties. You might simply want to advise your successor trustee of the location of your trust. If you would prefer that your successor trustee have a copy, you could scan the documents, store it on a CD and provide his/her with a copy that way.
If a successor trustee cannot locate the original trust when the original trustees are either incapacitated or deceased, that trustee may be required to file a court action to establish that the copy is the true trust and that it can be used in place of the missing original trust.
Disclaimer: The above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. My responses are intended to provide general information about the question posted. I am licensed to practice in the state of California. The information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for conferring with or hiring a competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in the subject area in your state.
No, a copy is not as good as the original. If the only thing available is a copy, someone would have to go through the court process and have the copy accepted as the best available evidence. It would be troublesome and expensive. This really wouldn’t be the best way to go.
hope this is helpful.
John N. Kitta
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It is important for your successor trustee to know where the original estate planning documents are located. However, I understand your concern about giving your safe combination to your trustee. My suggestion is to place the documents in a locking fireproof filing cabinet. You can place your estate planning documents in this filing cabinet, and inform your trustee of the location.
Legal disclaimer: The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response may change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.
Although I recognize the hesitancy to give the safe combo/key out. It speaks a little to your confidence in your successor Trustee. The core term is Trust. If you don't trust your successor trustee with access to the safe, then are you sure you trust your trustee to do what's right for you when the time comes.