“How can I get a copy of my trust from the trustee?”

I was recently asked the following question on the legal answer website AVVO.COM.  My answer was chosen as “best answer” by the questioner.

Question: My father wants a copy of my parent’s trust. He wants to request this in writing as it is difficult for him to get around. My mother claims she has misplaced the trust. My father would like to get a copy of the trust for me, but he is partially paralyzed and we had to hire full time help to assist him with his daily activities.

The trust attorney told me I would have to write a letter requesting it with the signatures of both of my parents. My father would do this, but my mother refuses. Is there any other way to get a copy of this trust? My mother constantly threatens me, telling me she is going to change the trust.  If my dad is a Trustee, can the Trust attorney legally refuse to do so? Would my dad’s request have to be notarized?

Answer (after another attorney had stated that the questioner’s mother would have to approve): I disagree. Your father, as a settlor and trustee, has a right to a copy of the trust that he and your mother hired the attorney to draft, assuming the attorney still retains a copy in the file. The request does not have to be notarized; in fact, he should simply be able to pick up the phone and call. If the attorney is skeptical about your father’s identity, then he should go to the office himself to pick it up, even if it is difficult to get around.

However, if I were you I’d talk to an estate planning attorney about this, and the underlying family issues that seem to be present. Where is the original? Was it destroyed? Lost? Is there in fact any property still in the trust? Is there a pending divorce?

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If you want to pose legal questions anonymously and have them answered by a handful of attorneys practicing in the field, consider coming to AVVO.com.  Or, just call me directly at (858) 740-4370, and I’ll answer your question myself or find someone who can.