In an age when we seem to have less and less privacy, most of us are reluctant to needlessly surrender what privacy we do have. I was reminded of that a few days ago when a long-time client, who was selling a home titled in his living trust, called to see how he could avoid showing his entire trust to the title company.
I reminded my client that his estate planning documents include a certificate of trust that contains just enough information about his trust to satisfy all the parties to the transaction. Rather than share the entire trust, he could simply give the title company the certificate.
A properly-drafted certificate of trust is a great tool to preserve privacy. Specifically authorized by Michigan statute, it is simply a sworn statement containing certain details about one’s living trust. It must list, for example, the name and date of the trust and the names and addresses of all the trustees. It must also include relevant information about the powers conferred in the trust. It need not, however, say anything about the trust beneficiaries or what or how they will inherit.
Most people in real estate and finance are familiar with certificates of trust, although some of them still ask to see the full trust instead. What those folks may not realize is that Michigan law makes anyone who demands to see a full trust instrument in addition to a certificate of trust liable for damages if a court finds that the person was not legally required to demand the full trust.
If you are ever asked to give a copy of your trust to someone other than a trust beneficiary and you are hesitant to do so, please give us a call as that person may not be entitled to see your trust.