When you go to transfer property in or out your living trust, a bank or other institution may ask to see the trust document. The institution wants to know that the trust exists and that you really have the authority you say you do.
If you don't want to show your trust document, in most cases you can use a shorter version of it, called a "certification of trust" or "certificate of trust" and sometimes referred to as an "abstract of trust." This document gives institutions the information they need but lets you keep some key provisions private. Notably, you don't have to disclose the names of the beneficiaries to whom you're leaving trust property. A certification is almost universally accepted in place of an entire trust document.
Many states have laws stating that if a certification of trust includes certain information, institutions must accept it in lieu of the entire trust document. California law, for example, states that someone who refuses to accept a valid certification and demands to see the whole trust document may be liable for any monetary loss suffered by the trust grantor.
Nolo's certification gives you a certification that meets the requirements of many states (for example, California). Even if it doesn't contain everything your state's form does, it will still be acceptable in a great many cases. However, an institution may insist that you use the form that has been approved by your state legislature. The states that have their own requirements are listed below. You can look up your state's law if you need to; see If You Need More Help for tips. In addition, institutions such as banks and title companies may have their own forms, which they would prefer you to use.
You should sign the certification in front of a notary public. If you and your spouse or partner made the trust together, you both need to sign the certification. If one has died, the survivor can make a certification.
Most states have enacted statutes setting out the contents for a certification of trust. If your certification meets the state requirements, institutions must accept it or be liable to you for your losses.
Here is an example of what a certification of trust can look like.
Certification of Trust
The trustees of the Sheila Jenkins Revocable Living Trust declares as follows:
Part 1. Existence and Name of Trust/Grantor
Sheila Jenkins, called the grantor, created a revocable living trust, known as the Sheila Jenkins Revocable Living Trust, by Declaration of Trust dated August 15, 20xx. This trust has not been revoked, modified or amended in such a way that would contradict what is stated in this Certification of Trust and remains in full force and effect.
Grantor's address is:
900 Lincoln Street
Tucson, Arizona 85745
Part 2. Amendment and Revocation
The grantor may amend or revoke the Sheila Jenkins Revocable Living Trust at any time, without notifying any beneficiary. The power to revoke or amend the trust is personal to the grantor. A conservator, guardian or other person shall not exercise it on behalf of the grantor, unless the grantor specifically grants a power to revoke or amend the trust in a Durable Power of Attorney.
Part 3. Trustee
Sheila Jenkins is the currently acting trustee of the trust.
The trustee in office shall serve as trustee of all trusts created under this Declaration of Trust, including children's subtrusts.
Part 4. Title to Trust Assets
Title to trust assets should be taken in the name of Sheila Jenkins, trustee of the Sheila Jenkins Revocable Living Trust, dated August 15, 20XX.
Part 5. Trustee's Management Powers and Duties
Powers Under State Law
The trustee shall have all authority and powers allowed or conferred on a trustee under Arizona law, subject to the trustee's fiduciary duty to the grantor and the beneficiaries.
The trustee's powers include but are not limited to:
This Certification of Trust is being signed by all currently acting trustee.
_____________________________________ Dated: ______________
Sheila Jenkins, Grantor and Trustee
[Attach: Notary's Certificate of Acknowledgement]