It is a simple matter to open or transfer a bank account into your living revocable trust. In this video Lee Phillips explains the many benefits of using living revocable trusts

Assuming you are using your living revocable trust to avoid probate, the assets (which require your signature to transfer or sell) need to be “owned” by the trust. This includes checking and savings accounts, plus safe deposit boxes.

You should have a “Certification of Trust” or a summary of the trust that proves you established the trust. That summary is probably all you need to take to the bank, but just to be safe, take the complete trust.

If the accounts person knows what they are doing, they will have you simply fill out a new signature card for the account. The trust will be listed as the owner of the account. You will check the box or indicate that this is going to be a trust account, and you will sign your name with the designation “Trustee” after your name. If your spouse or someone else is also designated as a trustee, then they should sign the signature card as co-trustee. Of course, you would also be signing as co-trustee. The card should ask how many signatures are required on checks. You will usually only have one signature required.

Make sure you include all three parts of the trust’s name: Name of trust, date the trust was established, and the name of the trustee (you).

The bank will ask for a Tax ID number for the trust. They want to know who is going to get the 1099 on the interest earned. The trust’s tax ID is your Social Security number. Your trust is what the IRS calls a “grantor” trust. IT DOESN’T NEED AND SHOULDN’T GET A TAX ID NUMBER.

You should not need to give them two Social Security numbers, if there are two trustees. Who will pay the tax? Just one of you needs to pay the tax.

If the account’s person has no clue what they are doing, ask to talk to the bank’s attorney. One credit union insisted on a Tax ID for the trust. We couldn’t convince them otherwise. We moved $1.5 million to another credit union that understood about trusts.

You shouldn’t have to print new checks. Just use the old ones. The account number shouldn’t change, so the old checks should still work.

If the bank doesn’t like the Certification of Trust they may take a copy of the trust. They usually only copy the first couple of pages in addition to the trustees sections, the powers of trustees, and the signature page (which is what the Certification of Trust contains). They need to establish the trust is real, who the successor trustees are and what their powers are. They will keep the copy in your file at the bank. That way they know what to expect after you die and are no longer the acting trustee.

The savings accounts and safe deposit box should be handled about the same way. If you don’t have a problem with the checking account, the savings and safe deposit box will go down easily.

  1. We greatly appreciate the information provided. It comports with my logic that with auto-deposits and auto-pay activities, keeping the same account numbers so that those activities do not have to be re-established with the 3rd parties, makes sense. But I do anticipate the banks to want to establish new accounts; which we will respond by departing those institutions.
    Thank you.

  2. Very helpful thanks

  3. My extreme disappointment is that many banks and credit unions too demand to have my ENTIRE TRUST in order to open a Revocable Trust Checking Account (or whatever other accounts). I offer them a copy of the first and last 2 signature pages of my Trust but they insist on having the entire document!

    I’m very tired of looking for other banks and credit unions…to find most of them also want the whole document. I feel it’s very degrading and there ought to be a law as to just how much an institution can dig into one’s affairs, don’t you think?

    Now I don’t know what to do. Would any of you, readers and commenters, surrender your intimate documents just to open an account??? Thanks ever so much for your opinions. :o)

    • Rosa,
      Usually if you have a certification of trust the bank will accept that. The certification has the information that the bank needs to know and none of the information that the bank does not need to know.

  4. Thank you so much Lee, after arguing back and forth,one of the institutions sent me their own Certificate of Trust and I was pleased and started filling it out but alas it seems like yet another big project since some of the questions are, again, very intrusive (besides unnecessary!): name and address of each beneficiary; method of choosing a successor trustee; all trustees restrictions, etc. all 4 full pages the last one with a few spaces for signatures. I may complete it after all as they win by getting me exhausted, lol!
    Thanks again!
    P.S. I read somewhere by an estate attorney that the grantor’s attorney includes such Certificate of Trust on the last page. I wish my attorney had done that. When I mentioned it to him he said I worry too much. I’m afraid I hired an attorney with (I just found out) only 25% of estates practice and he admitted to me he never was an executor. I feel unsupported as I totally relied on him because I have no family or friends who could do this. Am I correct on assuming I chose the wrong one? Tomorrow we meet to open an escrow account so he can have the money ready when needed. I gave him the Power of Attorney. If you have an opinion about this I’ll be so grateful to know it. 🙂

  5. I have all my saving and checking account as joint with my daughter. I have a trust but she does not. Do I still need to do a new signature card or will the Pay on Dead (PPO) take care of it, and distribute to beneficiaries without going through probate.

    • Nilda,
      Pay on death will take care of it to distribute outside of probate to your beneficiaries if you daughter doesn’t have rights of survivorship. If her name is on the account and has rights of survivorship then she would get the money after you die, not your beneficiaries. Also, since her name is on the account, the account is now subject to any creditors your daughter may have. A better way of having a child help you with your finances is to have the account in your trust and then appoint your child as a co-trustee with you on the account. This would make it so that the account is not subject to your daughters creditors and make sure that the account will go to your beneficiaries after you pass away. It also will allow your daughter to help you with the account.

  6. My elderly in-laws have a living trust, my husband, their son, was appointed power of attorney and happens to be executor of their living trust. My in-laws want him to take over their bills/finances while they are alive. However, with POA in hand and a visit at 2 at the banks, they were unable to add him on the accounts, as it was part of the living trust. So, my question can they add their son to thses accounts even with the POA in hand? The bank requested a copy of the living trust, which will show my husbands name as executor. Should this be sufficient or is there another Legal method to complete this process?

    • Susanna,
      There are a couple of housekeeping items. The power of attorney and the trust are two different items. You could think of them as two different persons. The power of attorney allows your husband, as agent for his parents, to handle their matters unrelated to the trust. BUT the trust is a different person from his parents. The person that manages the trust assets is the trustee. (An executor is a person who acts as the person who represents a will in a probate process.) The trust’s assets do not belong to his parents, so the power of attorney will not allow him to govern those assets. If they want your son to deal with the trust’s assets they will have to make him a co-trustee. They can do that, assuming the trust allows them to appoint a co-trustee. The appointment will be in writing and follow the terms the trust dictates. If the trust doesn’t allow that, we could amend the trust since both parents are still alive. When a parent dies, the power of attorney will instantly become void upon their death. The trust will survive their death. Usually, the trust automatically names a successor trustee to take over upon a death. I assume your husband is successor trustee (you called him an executor). Unless he is appointed as a currently acting co-trustee, his power to act as trustee will not take effect until both mom and dad are dead.

  7. Your information is helpful. What happens when the parent dies if a child who was originally named as a successor co-trustee with another sibling is made a co-trustee with a living parent who needs help? Can the trust be written such that the 2 siblings become co-trustees upon the death of the one living parent or does the named child remain the trustee and the trust remain revocable? Thanks.

    • Gin,
      The neat thing about a trust is it can basically be written any way you want. You will have to read the trust. Most trusts will say that the parent (current trustee) can name a co-trustee to act with them. If that is the case, the co-trustee will act with the parent until the parent dies, then the trust terms will dictate what happens after both parents are dead. The parent could sign a statement that activates the successor trustees now, even while the parent is alive. So, that would be another way to have a trustee other than the surviving parent be the trustee.

  8. Thanks for your helpful information.

    If I understand correctly, after I re-title my bank account to a living trust, the signature card will say: John Doe, trustee of ABC Trust dated May 9, 2018

    When signing checks, must I always use the full signature as above?

    Or can I continue to sign simply as John Doe?

    If only John Doe is needed, will this also be true after death when the Successor Trustee takes over?

    Can the new trustee simply sign as James Doe (when writing checks to beneficiaries, for example)?

    • Ken,
      You are correct. The signature card will read John Doe, trustee of ABC Trust dated May 9, 2018.

      You can print anything you want on your checks and you will continue to simply sing “John Doe.” After you die, the trust will become an irrevocable trust, and the trustee is more of a formalized position. The successor trustee could still sign their simple name, but it would be better if they always used their designation as trustee. While you are alive, we kind of know the trust is yours, but after you die, the trust isn’t the successor trustee’s like it was yours. I am making a social observation not a legal observation here. In all cases, the assets of the trust are legally held in the trust using the name of the trustee.

  9. Hi Lee, I was watching your video on putting your account in a trust account. My mother opened a trust account with me and my sister as Co Trustee. I am not getting any corporation from my sister. Just recently hired a attorney that applied for another tax ID for my mother stating she needed another tax ID and to go to bank and get a new account card with my info to send to my sister so that we can open a new account. I went to the bank the VP of the bank is telling that the Trust account is ok as is. He also added notes that any withdraw need two signatures am not feeling good about the attorney that has given my the wrong info. Please advise

  10. My wife and I finally changed a large bank account to be held by us as trustees of our revocable living trust…but during the process we were asked about naming beneficiaries for that bank account. We were unsure if that was required or not…so we put our listed our 2 children as the beneficiaries on that account (our 2 children are also the sole beneficiaries of the living trust). Was naming the children as beneficiaries redundant in our case? Does it allow one of our children to claim half the account on our deaths without going through the trust? In other words, should I remove them as beneficiaries on the bank account and leave it at that (account still being held by my wife and I as trustees to the living trust)?

    • Harrison,
      This is very strange. You find a lot of bank employees that have no idea what a trust is. The beneficiaries are named in your trust, and the trust owns the bank account. There should be no mechanism for the bank to name beneficiaries of your bank account. I don’t know what the outcome of the bank naming beneficiaries of the account might be. The bank has pay on death POD accounts that pay the account to the named beneficiaries on the account. There are several variations of the accounts (transfer on death account), but the concept is you name who gets the account when you die (the accounts pays out on your death). Maybe the idiot banking employee thought that was the type of trust account you wanted and set that up for you. POD accounts are sometimes known as a “Totten Trust.” You could put that account in the name of your trust, but the account will not go through your living revocable trust when you die. You shouldn’t have to change your account number or anything, just put the trusts name on a new signature card, same account.

  11. Lee, My husband and I erroneously had an Irrevocable Trust drawn by an estate planning lawyer who might had past his prime in mental sharpness, with my son, Quincy, as the sole trustee as Patrice my daughter was 12 years younger than him. Now Quincy is 42 and disabled with bipolar/schezophrenia spectrum. The original lawyer is deceased 10+years ago. He never asked us to fund the trust (as it was not an irrevocable trust; my husband and I were, and still are alive) and there is no record of its existence in the Clerk’s office and we had lost/misplaced the original. I want to replace it with a new living, revocable trust with my daughter as the trustee with your help. What’s the cost/how to proceed? Alice

    • Hi Alice.

      I will have to ask more questions before I understand what needs to be done. What property if any does the irrevocable trust own? Has it been filing tax returns. What state are you in? Do you have a taxable estate. When was the original irrevocable trust made? And funded? Give the office a call and we can arrange to talk. 801-802-9020

  12. My husband and I have all of our bank accounts, (savings and checking) and our investment oortfolio, set up with our children as co-owners, on our accounts, with right of survivorship. Should we put these accounts in our trust also?
    I am thinking just our property, real and personal, should be in the revocable trust? But, definitely,not our vehicles?

    • C.S.
      You are making a HUGE mistake by having your kids on anything. It is a total disaster for everyone. The accounts, particularly the investment accounts need to be owned by the trust and not held jointly with the kids. A full chapter in my book, Protecting Your Financial Future, is dedicated to explaining why it is so bad.

  13. I have 2 rental properties (6 units) which are titled in the name of my trust. I have separate checking, savings & security interest accounts which are not in the trust, but titled in the name of my properties. What happens to these accounts when I die?

    • The accounts will have to be probated if they are in your personal name and not the trust.
      The accounts will have to be probated if you are the only signature on the accounts. The accounts are not titled in your name, but in the property name. You can name an account basically anything. The accounts are not owned by the property. They are owned by you. Property is not an “entity” that can own things, and property doesn’t have a “life” or legal rights. You should place the accounts in your trust also. The trust has a mechanism to transfer the power over the accounts when you die, whereas the property doesn’t have that capacity. The accounts titled with the same name as the property isn’t the same as having accounts in the name of an LLC, for example. The LLC has ownership rights, the property doesn’t. If the LLC is owned by your trust, there is no need to have the accounts owned by the LLC in the name of the trust. The LLC would not be probated at your death, because the trust owned it. The assets of the LLC would not be probated either, because the trustee that controls the LLC has full rights and powers over the assets of the LLC.

  14. Can my company’s business accounts be held in the Trust? I’ve been told they can’t.

  15. Good morning,Lee. My husband and I have a revocable trust. Our checking and money market accounts are both in it. Yesterday our bank called to tell us we needed to sign papers because if new regulations. I asked what changed and he could not clearly explain. It has been four years since we established and transferred the accounts into the trust. Also they said we are not required to place the safety deposit box into the trust. Please explain what is going.on and how we should proceed. We are thinking about switching banks.

    • Sharon,
      Anything you sign your name to access or transfer needs to be in the name of the trust. 1. Name of trust. 2. Date of trust. 3. Name of trustee. These three elements have to be there. The safe deposit box is no exception. The only thing that might be an exception is a vehicle, but when you buy your next vehicle, buy it in the name of your trust. I don’t know of any new regulations that require someone with a bank account in the name of trust to do any new paperwork on the account. The bank could have changed its internal “regulations.” If the bank is stupid enough to tell you they will let any one in your box after you die without a court order (probate), it is time to change banks. Some banks are too stupid to know your SS number is all that is required to open a trust account with a living revocable trust. Time for a new bank again.

  16. My husband and I have set up a revocable living trust. We are now trying to fund the trust by putting our real estate and bank accounts into the trust. Our financial institution is a federal credit union. We have a joint checking/savings account and a money market account, also joint. The credit union is telling us that they cannot have both of those accounts in the trust. I totally do not understand this. Do you have any insight to share on this??

    • Gina,
      Credit unions make up their own rules. Appeal to the manager and the credit union lawyer. You are using a living revocable trust which is grantor trust and a disregarded entity as far as the IRS is concerned. You use your Social Security number for the trust tax ID. When they still say drop dead, you have to decide if you are married to the credit union or are ok with another bank or credit union. There won’t be a probate when the first of you dies, but will be on the second one to die. I had this case with another person, and they moved a $3 million account to the credit union down the street.

  17. I have a credit union bank account that I put in my living trust over 10 years ago and I need to update it with a new successor trustee. The bank is telling me they need a new Certificate of Trust. Would that be necessary?

    • Opal
      A new certificate would be ok. Update the certification of trust with the new trustees. Just do it the same as the last time except change the trustees listed in the certification. The credit unions are hard to get along with and they all have their individual policies. Have FUN dealing with them.

  18. Suppose the property schedule in a trust document specifically lists a bank account (by institution and account number) but the account itself never got retitled and the account holder dies. For estate purposes, are the assets in the account “in the trust” or are they instead subject to probate and terms of whatever will exists?

    • Bob,
      Technically, the bank account is property of the trust, but the question is will the bank honor that paper and let the successor trustee into the account. Cross your fingers, otherwise you have to probate the account. Let me know what happens. I would actually like to know. Thanks.

  19. Hello, Lee, my mother has a Revocable Living Trust. In the past few years she changed some items in her trust, including removing my brother as Power of Attorney or Executor. I am now named as a co-trustee with my mother in her trust. My brother and other sister are named as successor trustees. Here are my two questions, since I am just now in the beginning stages of needing to take care of financial affairs for my mother who is not as capable as she once was (paying bills, balancing accounts, taxes, etc.): 1) My brother is currently named on my mother’s bank account with her (not clear at this point if this account bears the name of the trust). I am not named on this bank account. Is this a problem, and if so, should I move to have my brother’s name removed? Do I need to have my name added since the trust names me as a co-trustee and therefore I have full authority under the trust? I seemed to glean from previous comments above that this is not necessary, but just trying to confirm. 2) I’m unclear how I should sign checks. Do I sign my name, followed by “co-trustee” or do I sign her name? Is this true even after her death? Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Changing a living revocable trust would not remove your brother as power of attorney and executor. That would require a change in the durable power of attorney and the will respectively. If the bank account with your mother’s and brother’s name on it is not in the trust, then you can’t access it, because it is not a trust account. If they have signed the signature cared in the name of the trust and they have signed as trustees, then you should have access to the account as co trustee. You would have to get mom and brother to sign to make the account a trust account. If mom can’t sign, then maybe the durable power of attorney will authorize an agent to sign for her. You should have your name added as a co trustee, if it is a trust account. If it is a trust account you would just sign your name on the checks. The signature card would have you as a trustee. It would be the same after her death. You are the trustee. and can sign on behalf of the trust.

  20. Good morning sir. Thank you for the informative videos. My father died recently, all his assets were titled to his trust (he was widowed) naming my brother and I as successor trustees. I have been reading that I need to open new bank accounts and retitle the trust, get a tax ID # and do a tax return for the trust. This, until the trust is dissolved. Does this sound accurate ? Have you done a video on this ? How should it be titled ? Thank you.

    • Linda,
      If your dad had a normal living revocable trust, at his death (sorry you lost him) the trust became irrevocable. You do need to get an EIN for the trust now. apply on line. choose to have the trust and the estate joined on one tax return. You will have to file a 1041 each year, until the trust has distributed all of the assets. You probably don’t have to get new bank accounts, etc. just have the bank change the signature care to show you and your brother as trustees and change from dad’s social security number to the EIN on the account. You really don’t need to change the name of the trust, just start using the EIN. Sometimes the trust says what the irrevocable trust will be called. You may want to drop the terms “revocable trust” from the name instead of the smith living revocable trust it would just be smith trust. there is no standard protocol.

  21. I’m in deep doo doo. Read your forum and very much appreciated the info provided. I have a situation that might interest you or your forum as a look into the future – or what not to do. Currently my Step Sister has filed a petition against me for breach of trust, removal of co-executor, and a surcharge for damages to the trust. It started like this. My Mother and Step Dad entered into a Trust and the schedule A references ‘all my accounts at bitty S&L’ for each of them, no account numbers. And the family home was also placed in the Trust. Mom tells me at the time it’s all the time deposits. There is no provision in the Trust for incapacitation of the Trustor. It is set up as a co-executor to act jointly between Step Sister and myself. Step Dad passes away in 2008. In early 2014 Mom wants to add me to her checking account (operating) as a back up in the event of illness or accident. She and one of my sisters tell me that the purpose is that I would serve as Mother in this event. We go to Big Bank and covert her individual account to a joint account. In the fall of 2015 Mom has a debilitating stroke leaving her paralyzed. Alright, I’m up to bat to serve in Mother’s stead. She survived another 4 years without much improvement – and then passed in August 2019. During Christmas I received the notice of the petition claiming that the checking account was a trust account and I unilaterally took over trust assets, and claiming that this checking account I was using belonged to the trust. It turns out that bitty S&L was acquired by Big Bank in 2007. I visited the bank and reviewed the signature cards current and previous. There was no reference to the Trust, it was always an individual account until it was converted to a joint account in 2014. So is the checking account I’ve been using for Mother’s affairs for the last 4 years really a trust account due to the ‘all’ on Schedule A? Or is this a decision the judge will make? Is Step Sister and her attorney blowing smoke? Thanks so much for any insight you can provide

    • Anne,
      It always depends upon what the judge eats for lunch, but I would bet a lot of money that it is a joint account and technically it is 100% yours when mom died. I don’t understand, but just saying on a schedule that all my accounts go into the trust isn’t going to cut it. That certainly wouldn’t avoid probate on those accounts, especially if they weren’t listed by number.

  22. My new husband and I have separate checking accounts. We just created a revocable trust and when he updated his bank signature card (putting his checking account into our new trust) the bank said his checking account has to be changed to a joint account. We want separate checking accounts in the trust. Can this be done?

    • Shanerak
      If the trust is a “joint trust,” then the bank is probably right in asking for the trust account to be a “joint” account.  Actually, there is no such thing as a “joint account” in the trust world.  It would be an account owned by the trust, but the trust probably says the two spouses are joint trustees or mor appropriately co-trustees.  The bank wants both trustees to sign the single trust account.  Unless there is a his trust and a her trust created, the assets of the single trust would be considered owned by the trust, and would be subject to both your creditors.  If you want separate property, you would need a trust where he was the only trustee and beneficiary; and a second trust where she was the only trustee and beneficiary.  You could continue to have separate property with the bank accounts and avoid probate by having the bank accounts “pay on death” to the trust, and then the property in the bank account would be automatically paid to the trust on death and then distributed with the rest of the trust assets.  That might work in this case without creating two trusts.

  23. Hi Lee,
    My husband and I just finished establishing our Revocable Living Trust and are in the process of re-titling our bank accounts. Since the people in the bank don’t seem to deal with Trust questions often, we’ve been given different answers by different folks in the bank. It’s quite frustrating. The bank sent me a form and I have 3 questions on how to properly fill out the form and would appreciate your guidance.
    1. We are given 2 options on the form. A) “Establish a new Trust account” or B) “Add Trust as a Beneficiary (Payable on Death)”? Which of the 2 options do we check to ensure that we get an account card in a fiduciary form, not as a Totten account card?

    2. Beneficiary Information: not sure why the bank cares to know this. Do we need to fill this portion out and if so, would writing “My Estate” as beneficiary be legally acceptable?

    3. Grantor, Trustee, and Grantor Beneficiary Information: I’m still confused between the terms “Grantor” and “Trustee”. This section asks for names and SSN#s. I am assuming my husband and I are the Grantors in this case. Is that correct?

    Thank you so much for your help.

    • Mari Vee,
      The Grantor is the person who makes out the trust. You and your husband would be grantors. The Trustee is the person who manages the trust assets. You and your husband would be trustees. The Beneficiary is the person who gets the benefit of the trust assets. You and your husband are Beneficiaries. Your social security numbers are used in place of a Tax ID# because undoubtedly, your trust is considered a “grantor” trust by the IRS. Usually the bank will allow you to change your personal account to a trust account without opening a new account. You want a trust account, not an account with the trust named as beneficiary on a POD (Payable on Death). You do not name your estate as beneficiary because that would require the bank account to be probated. Anything to do with the word “estate” means probate. I hate banks. Their policy depends on what the administrator ate for lunch.

  24. My uncle has a family trust where he is the truster. He fell ill and a “friend” had him sign to make him the co-trustee. The banking institution took this and added the “friend” to the account as co trustee. Family stepped in and my uncle reverted to his original wishes to have his sister as co-trustee when needed (which was now) An amendment to the trust was given to the bank stating that the old co-trustee was no longer and the sister was now the co-trustee. The bank is saying they cannot remove teh “friend” from the account without his signature. Is this correct? Why have us have to involve this friend at all? I don’t want to lose the history of the account that has been in existence for years because of this. The bank is suggesting to open a new account – as if it is a new trust. Does this sound right? Can the bank really leave this co-trustee (“Friend”) on even with having been given legal papers that state he is no longer co-trustee?

    • Helen,
      The bank normally requires the signature of anyone being removed from a bank account. The trust may state that the uncle can “fire” a co-trustee, in which case a signed statement by the uncle may suffice. It depends on what the banker eats for lunch. I don’t know that old accounts have a lot of value to them.

  25. Thank you for all the great info here.
    My wife and I want to start a revocable living trust. We still have a mortgage on our home and property. Its held by the same bank as our checking and savings accounts. We wont ever be refinancing it as we dont owe much left on it and have a great interest rate now.
    My question is what steps should we take to put the mortgage into our trust?
    As I understand it we should get a copy of it from the county records to begin with, ive done that already. Copy everything and make sure the description of our real estate is exactly the same. Refer the new form to the master mortgage form that was created when we bought the house years ago. And submit this to our bank/mortgage lender for approval before submitting to the county recorder? My wife and I as the Grantors will be co trustees to the trust.

    • Ricky,
      The mortgage has nothing to do with transferring a piece of property into the trust. I assume the two of you are on the deed to the property. You will make out a new deed from the two of you to the trust. Make sure the property and names are exactly the same. You might have a title company make out the deed and pay them $50 or whatever it is they want. You do not have to notify the mortgage company. The Garn St. Germain Act specifically exempts transfers into a living revocable trust from any mortgage challenge.

  26. I have a revocable trust and living will. I have a checking account that has not been funded into the trust. Although she can co sign on the checking account and has current legal power of attorney – along with being executor, how does the ” Pay On Death Beneficiary” work – and how do I secure this account avoiding probate? Do I need to go to the bank and arrange for this? Am not sure what I need to do. Thank you.

    • Kay,
      The best way to avoid probate on a bank account is to have it owned by or as you would say “funded” into a living revocable trust. Having someone’s name as a co signer on the account means they have to own all or part of that account. Note that it is a legalism that each joint tenant on an account is actually 100% owner of the account. As soon as you have co signers on the account, you place that account at risk do to the actions of the co signer and his or her creditors. You can have a POD (Pay on Death) or TOD (Transfer on Death) account which names an individual that will receive the account upon your death. This is a contract between you and the bank to deliver the account upon your death to the designated individual(s). It will avoid probate. The co signer concepts will avoid probate, but put the accounts at risk.

  27. My parents have a bank account in the name of their trust. My father passed away, and now we want to add another account for a certificate of deposit. The bank is saying our original Certificate of Trust is not sufficient, and that we need something with just my mother’s name on it. Does she need a new Certificate of Trust, with no mention of my father’s name, (e.g. Jane Doe Trust vs. John and Jane Doe Trust)?

    • Tina,
      Banks are weird. Their policies depend on what someone ate for lunch in the banking administration. If it has not become an irrevocable trust (a shelter trust), then your mother can probably amend and restate the entire trust and take your dad’s name off. My mother-in-law went to different branches of her bank until she found someone who would cash a check made out to the trust listing my dead father-in-law as trustee, even though the trust clearly said she was the sole trustee after he died. Banks can be a nightmare.

  28. Do former beneficiaries on POD accounts have legal rights to accounts that were closed? A few years ago, my Brother and I closed our Dad’s bank accounts in order to fund his revocable living trust. Brother and I are co-trustees and equal heirs to Dad’s estate. Dad is still alive and mentally competent and no longer considers these former beneficiaries as heirs. They are now claiming Brother and I ‘disinherited them’ and insist on being included in the estate. Do they have legal rights to the money that was in the closed accounts?

    • Angie,
      Because someone is listed as a beneficiary on a POD account, gives them no rights to the account until the principal’s death. The principal can certainly close the account and the beneficiaries have no rights or interest in what was in the account before it is closed. Closing a pod and having an account put into a living revocable trust is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and the owner of the account has the right to do whatever they want to with the account. The other heirs don’t really have an argument.

  29. Hello Lee,
    I intend to put my checking account into my trust as the owner. A direct deposit check from a mortgage note that I hold gets deposited monthly into that account. If I die does that mortgage note check continue to be deposited into the trust checking account.?

    • Katy,
      If you die, the direct deposits and payments in and out of an account should continue if the account is owned by your trust. The new trustee (successor trustee) will have control over the account, but the account shouldn’t have any interruption.

  30. Hi Lee, wow, thank you for being so responsive on this confusing topic.

    My husband and I are going through the process of funding our living trust. Each banking institution has a different method of going at this and it’s frustrating (and it’s definitely going to involve leaving one of our banks).

    Our question, based on the banking frustration: If a bank insists on creating a new trust account rather than just changing the account name, does that mean we need to close the old joint personal accounts? Trying to confirm my impression that no accounts should be left open which are not in the trust’s name. We are in California.

    Bonus question: Have you heard of a bank requiring a new trust account signature card to be notarized at the bank? We would both be physically there signing, regardless – I’m just wondering if this is normal or “out there.”

    • Lani,
      I haven’t heard of a bank requiring a signature card to be notarized. Since the Patriot Act after 9/11, banks do require you to be there in person to sign the signature cards. I would close the old joint personal accounts, because if both of you died together the family would have to probate them. Some banks require a new account. Most banks just let you change the existing account to the trust’s ownership. Banks are weird.

  31. I have a Revocable living trust and am the only child and successor. My father passed away and left me his dental office and business accounts in the trust. I have filed for EIN number for trust and now want to open a bank account for the trust. My father never set up a trust bank account when alive. I was told by wells fargo that I could not open account because my dad was solo proprietor and not LLC corp/etc. Are they correct? Can I continue to use existing business bank accounts, credit cards, etc? What should I do???

    • Mary,
      As a trustee, you should be able to open a bank account for the trust for any reason. Go to a different bank. Probably stay away from the credit unions (they tend to have weird rules). I don’t understand why you can’t open a bank account as the trustee. You have an EIN and proof you are the trustee. ou probably can’t use bank accounts that were not in the trust, unless you were a joint tenant or something. You probably shouldn’t use the credit cards, etc. Technically you aren’t authorized to use them if they were your dad’s. I assume the business accounts were not in the trust. That’s a problem, because they were your dad’s. You will have to probate the accounts and business. That kills the business, because you can’t sell it without the probate. Get someone to take the patients and operate the business in their name, and formally sell it later.

  32. So it’s ok to POD existing bank accounts to my trust (CU won’t allow retitling current accounts to trust)?

    Our mortgage company is making us get their permission to retitle to our trust. I know they can’t deny the “request”, but they sure are making us jump through hoops.

    • Deb,
      If you have a POD account, there is not a lot of need to put it in the living revocable trust, because it is designed to avoid probate.  You might take the money out of it and open a new account in the name of the trust with the money in it.  the only advantage would be that the successor trustee could manage the account if you became incompetent without a court order.  If you had a good durable power of attorney that might solve the problem and just leave the account in the POD. Mortgage companies are weird about refinancing the property in a trust.  they usually make you take it out of the trust.  In a true living revocable trust, they can’t prevent you from putting it back into the trust.  Welcome to the land of “He who has the gold makes the rules.”  The mortgage company has the money, so just play their game.

  33. Hi Lee,

    If I put my bank account into my living trust, can I continue to have my Social Security deposited to the account?

    I Googled this issue but am finding conflicting answers.

    Some places say yes.

    But one lawyer said: “The social security administration has taken the position that it cannot provide direct deposit to an account held in the name of a trust.”

    • Ken,
      That’s funny.  For three years, my wife had her SS disability deposited into her bank account held in the name of her trust.  It had her SS number on it.  A living revocable trust is by definition a “disregarded entity” according to the IRS and government in general.  You shouldn’t have any trouble.  I have run onto credit unions and some banks that require a tax id for the trust account of a living revocable trust.  this is wrong, but the bank has the gold so they make the rules.  Go to another bank.

  34. Lee,

    Thanks for your response about Social Security direct deposit to a trust bank account.

    The link below appears to be the official SS policy about “Direct Deposit to Trust Accounts.”


    If the link doesn’t work, Google this: POMS Direct Deposit to Trust Accounts

    I can’t really understand what the policy is saying.

    Do you think the policy is saying it’s OK to direct deposit if the trust is created by me and I am also the Trustee?

    • A Totten trust is simply a POD (pay on death) account. It has nothing to do with a living revocable trust that you would create for estate planning. Social Security checks can be deposited into accounts held by living revocable trusts. At least they deposited my wife’s checks into the account held by her living revocable trust.

  35. If my bank accounts are put into a Revocable Trust, and if my son has Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs and needs access to my bank assets to pay bills while I am alive (and disabled), willlthebankallow that? My Bank says no. What is the solution?

    • A power of attorney will not allow someone to access trust assets. The trustee has power over the trust assets and could pay the bills. You could make him a co-trustee with you today, and then he could use the trust accounts to pay the bills. Your trust should say that you can appoint a co-trustee while you are alive.

  36. Hi Lee,

    Thank you for the great information. My parents have a joint revocable living trust. They each have their own separate bank accounts. Does it make sense for them to open a new bank account with the joint trust name and have their existing accounts be POD to the new account? Currently the POD on each of their accounts is to their children instead. This way when one dies, then the POD will fund the trust account so that the surviving spouse can use those funds at their discretion rather than the funds going to the children right away.

    One other question about social security direct deposits (which may also help decide which way to go on the above example). Currently they have their deposits going to their separate bank account. Does it make more sense to create that new trust account and update their direct deposit info with social security so that they get both checks deposited to the single account?

    • I am not sure what the reasoning for maintaining the two POD accounts is, but there must be a reason. Asset protection? The structure you have described would work. I always say that the parents’ first obligation is to take care of themselves not leave money to the kids, so I think it would be a good idea to move the money to where the parent could use it rather than sending it to the kids at the first death of mom and dad.

      Where to deposit the social security checks? I don’t see that it makes much difference where the checks are deposited. At the death of the parent, their social security payments will stop. Whatever is most convenient for the parents.

  37. So I take it that adding my trust as beneficiary to my bank accounts is perhaps more advantageous than re-titling? It seems to accomplish the same thing, and I’m seeing that there are some potential snags with re-titling.

    • Joni,
      If you wanted to name your trust as the beneficiary on a POD or TOD account at the bank, that would send the bank account money to the beneficiaries of the trust, as the trust directs. I am not sure how many banks will let you name a trust as beneficiary on a Pay on Death or Transfer on Death account, but give it a try.

  38. I have an estate large enough to require two living revocable family trusts in order to avoid estate tax. One for myself and one for my wife. My question is can I title a single bank account jointly (tenants in common, I guess) with each revocable trust as account owner?

    • Craig,
      You should be able to have two living revocable trusts be tenants in common on a bank account. Whether or not the bank will let you do that is another question. He who has the gold makes the rules, and the banks have the gold.

  39. I am the trustee of my father’s trust and he passed away. I have given his bank the trust, the death certificate and my information but they have frozen his account and refuse to unfreeze it. I can not pay his bills and his autopay accounts are being denied. I have checks that need to be deposited.

    The manager was willing to give me a check for my share of the funds which I hadn’t requested. What can I do?

  40. My mother is inheriting stock certificates. She has a revocable trust. The attorney is asking if she would like the stock certificates cashed out or transferred to her name. If she has them transferred to her name, should they be titled the name of her trust. Jane Doe, trustee of the Jane Doe revocable trust?

    • Dee,
      They should be in the name of the trust. Jane Doe Trust U/A (under agreement) 7/12/2003 Jane Doe Trustee. All three elements should be there. I would open a brokerage account in the trust’s name and deposit the certificates in that account. Should be a lot cheaper than having new certificates issued.

  41. Does this same process work for transferring a bank account into an IRREVOCABLE trust?

    • Wendy,
      Yes the same process is used to move a bank account into an irrevocable trust or a living revocable trust. You have to remember that when you transfer assets into an irrevocable trust there are gift tax consequences.

  42. Both of my parents passed away. They had a Revocable Living Trust and I was named the Successor Trustee. The only trust account they had was the bank account. I went to the bank with a certified death certificate and the living trust documents and I told them I needed access to the account so I can distribute the money to the beneficiaries, and I was told that I need to apply for EIN with the IRS first before they can help me. They said they cannot use my dad’s SSN anymore because he’s no longer alive. Is this really necessary? I looked at the SS-4 at the IRS website, but it seems too complicated and not applicable because my parents had no dividend income, or a business income, etc. What should I do?


    • Angelo,
      Your parent’s living revocable trust instantly became an irrevocable trust the day the last parent died. It will require its own EIN. The bank is right in this case. The EIN will be for a trust and/or estate.

  43. Hi Lee, We have a living trust with our daughter as the beneficiary and one of the items our lawyer has on the Trust Funding Checklist is to open a new account in the name of the trust so she is able to access any life insurance, 401 K, etc funds that maybe be distributed (payable to the trust ) vs. her name as the trustee. Is this required? I am kind of confused as to the need for that specific account since our accounts have her listed as the POD beneficiary. For example, what would happen if she needs to cash a check that is payable to the trust without the trust bank account?
    Thank you!

  44. Hi Lee, thank you for your site. I will be purchasing your book.

    I am married with two minor children — we have a trust in case both of us pass before the kids reach adulthood. For assets in my name, the trust is a contingent beneficiary and my husband is the primary beneficiary (and vice versa on his accounts). However, our bank does not allow us to put a trust as a beneficiary. I’m not sure what our next step is. I’m finding funding the trust more confusing than anticipated. Our lawyer said this is how we should set it up but I see some people just put their accounts in the name of the trust — not sure of the advantage there.


    • Alison,
      It sounds to me like your attorney may be setting you up for probate. The trust should “own” the accounts and you need to transfer the accounts into the trust now while you are both alive. It is possible that the trust is a testamentary trust and will not be established until after you die. you need a living revocable trust, not a testamentary trust. I am not sure why the attorney would have you making the accounts have H or W be the primary beneficiary and the trust the secondary beneficiary. There are lots of things, like real property, that you can’t name a beneficiary for. Those types of assets definitely need to be owned by the trust now or the trust has to be “funded” with the assets.

  45. My mother has a revocable trust and I am the co-trustee of that trust. One of her checking accounts has not been included in the trust. Can I as co-trustee and a co-signer on the checking account add this account to the trust? My mother suffers from Alzheimer’s and is not up to the task.

  46. Hello Lee,

    How can a Trustees transfer funds from an inherited checking account (outside of the Trust) where they are Co-Owners to the Irrevocable Trust (after grantors deathwith EIN assigned) to distribute funds to the beneficiaries thru the Trust?
    Is the transfer consider by the IRS under the Gift Tax Rules?
    Are the Trustees allowed to transfer funds out of the checking account directly to beneficiaries and would this be considered a gift?
    Thank you for your guidance

  47. Hello Lee,
    How can Trustees that co-owners of an inherited checking (outside the Trust) account transfer funds into an Irrevocable Trust Account (after grantor’s death with an assigned EIN) to distribute to beneficiaries?
    Is the transfer consider a gift to the Trust under IRS rules and reportable?
    Can the Trustees pay directly to the beneficiaries from the checking account and are they subject to the gift tax?

  48. Hello Lee,

    If two Trustees inherited a checking account outside of the Trust where they are Co-Owners, can they transfer to the Irrevocable Trust (after Guarantors death) to distribute to the beneficiaries?

    Is the transfer consider a gift to the Trust and the distribution for beneficiaries under IRS Gift Tax Rules?

    If the Co-Owners (not spouses) of the checking account outside of the Trust each give each beneficiary a gift of $15,000 would that be reportable?.

    Thank you for assistance.

    • Michael,
      It would be a gift to the beneficiaries when you put the account in the irrevocable trust. You could just give under $15k each year–you could both give 15K each year without tax consequences.

  49. I went to my branch (chasse Manhattan bank) with a revocable trust and ask if my grantors can access my bank accounts. The bank rep said that I need to name the grantors as beneficiary. This is correct?

    • Simion,
      A grantor is the person who sets up the trust. The beneficiaries are the people who get the benefit of the trust assets. Dad creates the trust; he is the grantor and then he will be the beneficiary while he is alive. The beneficiaries are not named on a bank account signature card. Only the trustee (could be the grantor or someone else) will have his or her name on the account.

  50. Is a Testamentary (will trust) created with the following information only: I leave the sum of 20,000 each to my (2 specific grandchildren) and (2 specific great grandchildren) for higher education. If not used by age 25, the balance will be directed to (XYZ homeless shelter). Basically, that is all that the “current will” said regarding 4 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. It did, however, disinherit the eldest child (and heirs) who died 7 months after current will was written, replaced that child with the daughter of a surviving child, (essentially promoting her position from grandchild to child), promoted replacements children from great grandchildren to grandchildren, and disinherited recently deceased child’s daughter and her son. (Cut 1 grandchild and 1great-grandchild). But just concentrating on the testamentary trust, is there enough there for the default executor (The supposed daughter of decadents brothers ex wife) to take 80,000 and open 4 brokerage accounts “fbo” these various descendants? There is nothing filed with the probate request, except non intervention request and affidavit of mailing. The first grandchild to try to use the inheritance was cut off in the middle of his academic pursuit the day he turned 25. The whole thing sounds like a major will-jacking via testamentary trust but these are people who don’t have the money or means to pursue. Should I just forget about it as I am not directly involved? After all, it was my kids and their dad that were cheated, not me. Thanks

  51. We updated our trust, and now have the “Amendment and Restatement of the XXX Family Trust” Do we need to provide a copy of this, or a summary, to all banks and county recorder office to whom we provided our original trust?

    Also, I just became aware that my credit card at our credit union has the trust as the owner, not me personally as it was intended. (Not sure how this happened.) Is there any reason to have a credit card in the name of the trust?

    • Carol Browne
      You should let everyone know you did the restatement. You want them to be looking for the restated document after you die. You normally don’t file anything with the county recorder except deeds. you may want to make out a new deed showing the restated trust as the property owner.

      not sure why the credit card would be in the trust’s name. Probably doesn’t hurt anything, but unusual

  52. Similar to Angelo (6/21/21 post) My Mom just passed away. She had a Revocable Trust that included her house and credit union account, myself and youngest brother as Successor Trustees (we live nearby to Mom), all four of us sons are Successor Beneficiaries.

    My brother and I went to the credit union with the certified death certificate and the Successor Trustee Certificate from my attorney. They copied both, our licenses, we gave our SSN’s and signatures. They responded a week later that they needed an EIN to replace her SSN as she is no longer alive. Ok, I understand that. My accountant agreed that it automatically becomes an irrevocable trust at her passing, applied online for the EIN, called it an irrevocable trust, and I provided the IRS EIN statement to the credit union.

    Now, the credit union is saying the Revocable Trust has been renamed an Irrevocable trust and don’t seem to know what to do with it. Isn’t he EIN solely for purpose of the accountant filing the Estate with the IRS to ensure taxes are processed correctly? These Trusts are supposed to make the process easier but the financial institutions simply don’t know how to deal with them. There ought to be a law, what a mess.

    • It sounds like you understand pretty well. The trust does become irrevocable and needs it’s own tax ID EIN. It is for the IRS accounting, so the bank will issue its 1099R for 50 cents to the EIN not your mom’s social. The trust just kind of drops the “living revocable part of it’s name. The John and Mary Jones Living Revocable Trust U/A 6/5/2005 John and Mary Trustees should have a new signature card made out with the new tax ein and the boys as trustees. The John and Mary Jones Tr u/a 6/5/2005 boy 1 and boy2 trustees. They may make you open a new account number, but there shouldn’t be any probate. the biggest problem is the two words “credit union.” They are little kingdoms to themselves.

  53. Your info covered all the questions and issues concerning bank accounts in a trust. Very informative and and complete. Thanks a lot for your service

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