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​hi Janet - My sister and I are listed as successor trustees on my parents trust (parents are co-trustees). We all live in CA. My parents would like to give my sister and me the ability to handle their financial affairs if required, in regard to their bank and brokerage accounts. All of their accounts are listed under the name of their trust. I think what we need to do is for us to have durable power of attorney. Is that correct?

Different institutions seem to have different requirements. One company sent us a DPA form and that's it! Another said that we needed to draft an addition to the trust that gives my sister and I DPA for finances for the trust. Is there some standard? If a form needs to be drafted for the trust, is there a standard form or is a lawyer required?

If you would give me some direction, I would really appreciate it!


Thanks for your question - and for letting me know you're in California.  You're right that financial institutions' requirements are all over the map.

First, when you say your parents would like to give you and your sister the ability to handle their financial affairs "if required", that's generally what being a successor trustee of a trust does.  However, your parents would need to resign as trustees in order for that to happen, and I'm assuming from your question that they aren't ready to do that just yet.

So the idea of giving you and your sister a "power of attorney" to act on their behalf in the capacity of trustees is a good alternative.... that way, they still have the right to handle their finances, too.

Section 16052(a) of the California Probate Code states that "A trustee may delegate investment and management functions as prudent under the circumstances. The trustee shall exercise prudence in the following: ...."

However, a financial institution can impose its own rules as long as the rules they're trying to enforce aren't illegal.  So if the trust does not contain a clear paragraph that permits them to "delegate" their duties as trustees to an "agent" (aka "attorney in fact") under a power of attorney, then it will probably be necessary for them to amend the trust to add this - or to find a different financial institution that does not require them to "prove" they can do this.

I have never seen a "standard form" (such as a LegalZoom form, for example) that does this ... even though it seems relatively straightforward, it is best to have a lawyer's assistance.

By the way, I'm quite happy your parents did not suggest adding your name and/or your sister's name to these accounts.  That can be a total disaster for reasons too numerous to explain here.


This answer contains general information only and should not be construed as legal advice regarding your specific situation.  No attorney-client privilege is created.  Consult your own attorney for specific advice.

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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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