Trust Certification

What is a certificate of trust?

A certificate of trust, also known as a trust certificate, certification of trust document, or an affidavit of trust, is used to represent and verify an interest or ownership in a trust. The certificate of trust is similar to a stock certificate for a corporation. It includes important information about the trust to confirm its existence to outside parties without disclosing sensitive information that the creator of the trust (the settlor) may not want to share publicly.

What’s the purpose of a certificate of trust?

Before allowing trustees to act on behalf of a trust, financial institutions or third parties may need proof that the trust is actually in existence and that the trustee has the legal authority to act. A trust certification accomplishes this by showing the legal name of the trust, the date it was formed, the names of the trustees, and other information needed to authorize the facilitation of transactions for trust assets.

Because estate planning documents often contain personal information and may get lengthy, the certificate of trust presents a more concise and private means of proving the existence of the trust.

The trust certificate is often issued to trustees to serve as evidence of their authority to take actions such as executing trades, distributing earnings, or filing taxes without having to present the entire trust document each time. In addition to the trust certification document, financial institutions may also request a trustee certification form.

What’s the difference between a trust certification and a trustee certification?

While the trust certification document confirms the existence and legality of a trust, the trustee certification form is specifically used to certify the authority of a trustee to act on behalf of the trust. This form is often required by banks or financial institutions when the trustee needs to conduct transactions on behalf of the trust. 

How do I get a trust certificate? 

You can request a certificate of trust when you create a trust with your estate planning attorney or through estate planning software that allows you to create a trust online. 

Your financial institution may also provide you with a state-specific certificate of trust form that you can use to verify the trust’s existence or authorize trustees to perform their duties as it relates to the trust.

What should a certificate of trust document include?

While trusts are valid and recognized in all states, when it comes to certification of trust documents, some states also have specific guidelines for what constitutes a valid certification of trust. 

Some of the most common criteria for a valid certification of trust document include:

  • Full trust name 
  • Trust identification number
  • Title to trust assets
  • Date of trust establishment and/or update
  • Name of the trust creator (settlor)
  • The revocable or irrevocable nature of the trust
  • Names of any current trustee/trustees
  • Names of any successor trustee/trustees
  • Description of the trustee/trustees’ powers
  • Signature of the trust settlor and all trustees

The certification of trust document must also be notarized. Depending on the state, it may need to be filed at your local county office. 

Some states may be more stringent in the amount of data that needs to be included in the document, such as including the entire trust’s identification number versus only including the last four digits. However, the benefit of using the certification of trust document is that it generally does not have to include information that might be more personal in nature, such as the value of trust assets or how they will be distributed to the beneficiaries.

If you make any major amendments to the trust, such as changing the trustees, it’s important to update the trust certification accordingly.

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