Living Trust: Copy vs Original

Can you, or a family member, find your trust (a copy) or your will (the original)?

Many decades ago, the family lawyer who wrote the original will would want to hold onto it (with the client’s permission), and not even charge a low or reasonable storage fee. One reason was that the attorney hoped to be hired by the family to probate the will in the San Diego Probate Court after the client’s death. Having possession of the will was the first step to being hired. But no matter who kept the will, probate of the will was inevitable. The Probate Court had to be involved.

However the Probate process was expensive, not cheap, and slow, not fast. People have been abandoning wills since the 1970’s because with trusts they are spending less and distributing assets quicker after death.

But whether the estate planning document is a trust or a will, it is still important for the person in charge to have the document after death. For a will, it must be the original; for a trust, it can be a copy.

Today clients who have living trusts normally keep the original copy. Having the attorney keep the original copy of the trust is not as important as keeping the original will used to be. At death, a copy of the trust generally suffices for all parties in place of the original. Generally a court is not involved in administering a trust.

But safeguarding the original copy of your living trust should be the goal. The safest place, though inconvenient, is in a San Diego bank or credit union. And there may be a yearly fee. A safe, vault, or lock box at home works very well. At a minimum, keep your trust and all related documents together in a paper file or large envelope where you can readily find them. Think: if I die, where would someone look?

Consider giving the successor trustee, a family member, or a trusted friend in San Diego a copy (paper or electronic). Normally a copy can be used if the original trust is lost or unintentionally destroyed.

As part of our living trust service and at no extra charge, when the client signs the trust in our office we scan it into our computer and send an electronic copy to the client’s computer.  Thus we have a copy. The client has the original paper copy and an electronic copy.

We are conveniently located in Mission Valley. However, we service San Diego County and all parts of California. Our webpage is  However, if your trust is complicated (most are not), we do not recommend doing it online. If your trust is not complicated, you do not have to pay a large attorney fee to have it done.

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