Bank
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.

36 Comments
  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)

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. Rosa,
    Sorry about your frustrations with the lawyer. You definitely need to be careful.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 is..how 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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)?

  14. 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

  15. Julia,

    Not sure I understand the exact situation. Is your mother dead or still living? That would affect your actions. Give us a call at (801)802-9020.

  16. 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.

  17. 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)?

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. 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?

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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.

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

  26. Jeffrey,
    No, a companies business account cannot be held in your trust. The Trust will own the company and the company will own the account.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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??

  30. 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.

  31. 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?

  32. 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.

  33. 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?

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

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