Trusts & Estates Law/Titling language



The Certification of Trust of my parent's trust says assets should be titled this way:

"John Doe, Jane Doe, Trustees, 198X Doe Living Trust"

A letter from my parent's attorney (approximately a year later) says bank accounts should be titled like this:

"John Doe or Jane Doe, Trustees, U.D.T., dated Jun 15, 198X"

I notice some of my parent's assets have the first type of title, others have the second.  I'm wondering if this is okay. Just trying to avoid any surprise roadblocks in the future.

Thank you.

Thanks for your question.  In theory, either way of titling the assets should work.  "Once upon a time" (pre-9/11 and the rise of the "know your customer" rules), banks and other financial institutions were pretty lackadaisical about the way assets were titled, especially since there usually isn't enough room on the forms to insert the entire name of the trust.  But the institutions are getting much pickier these days.

The best thing to do if you're concerned is to contact each institution and find out what they'd require you to show if you were trying to access the accounts after your parents' deaths.

Alternatively, there is a statute in California that says, in effect "if I show you a "Certificate of Trust" that has certain information in it (trust name, trustees' names, etc.) and you rely on that Certificate, then you (the institution) are protected against mistakes.  But if you force me to "prove" this information to you, then you're responsible for making sure every word in the document is correct." (basically, "don't ask, don't tell" or "what you don't know won't hurt you").

Even the stodgiest institutions seem to be willing to accept the certificate once they understand that "ignorance is bliss".

Having said that, though, the last thing a person needs when s/he's grieving is to have to maneuver through the bureaucracy.

So I applaud you for thinking ahead and trying to resolve any potential problems before they arise.

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Janet Brewer


BE CAREFUL about taking legal advice from non-lawyers.

I am a licensed attorney in California. I am available to answer questions about probating estates, preparing wills and trusts, administering estates and trusts, forming family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, and establishing a wide variety of estate and gift tax-sensitive trusts (charitable trusts, children's trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, etc.).

I can also answer questions regarding the preparation of estate tax returns (Form 706) in taxable estates. Please note that I do not prepare trust income tax returns and cannot provide you with any information about that type of return.

Please note: I am only able to practice law in the State of California. I cannot answer specific questions about other states' laws; I can only provide some "general" information that may or may not apply to your situation.


I have practiced California estate, gift-planning, and probate law exclusively since 1991. I am certified as a specialist in estate planning and probate law by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization (there are less than 125 such specialists practicing in Santa Clara County and fewer than 7,000 practicing in California - out of over 170,000 lawyers statewide).

I have served as an Instructor in the CFP (certificate in financial planning) program at University of California Santa Cruz, teaching the estate planning segment.

Silicon Valley Bar Association
Wealth Counsel
Wealth Advisors' Forum
Executive Committee Member, Solo and Small Firm Section of the California State Bar (appointed to a 3 year term by the California State Bar Board of Governors)

I received my law degree (J.D.) from University of Denver Law School in 1975. I was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1975 and to the California Bar in 1977 (NOTE: although I am a member of the Colorado Bar, I am on INACTIVE status there). I earned an M.B.A. in 1982, and I earned a Masters Degree in Taxation Law (LLM) at Golden Gate University Law School in 2010 (with honors).

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Awards and Honors
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012 - chosen as a "SuperLawyer" - one of the top 5% of Northern California lawyers practicing in the estate planning and probate area ( Avvo Rating of 10.0/10.0

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