Today’s question comes from Waukesha
Wisconsin and the reader has the following can I open a checking account
in the name of a trust if I am the only successor trustee while the primary is
alive so by primary I think they mean the
grantor the creator of the trust who’s probably still serving as trustee we
have a trust in the name of my father he is the primary trustee and I am a
successor trustee he is gravely ill can I open a bank account to protect his
assets from probate before he passes as a successor trustee do I have the power
to do that so that’s the question in full and the answer to this again comes down
to you need to examine the trust document to see what powers it grants
you as successor trustee if you are the successor trustee but not yet acting my
initial reaction is that you likely lack the power to open this account however
many trusts such as the ones I draft include provisions about what happens
when the initial trustee your father is ill or incapacitated now for trusts I
draft there’s often a provision stating that if two physicians say they’re
incapacitated unable to act then the successor steps in so if your trust has
a provision like that it’s likely you could trigger that provision and begin
acting as successor trustee in general if you are the trustee you likely have
the power to open an account and move assets around any assets already owned
by the trust now one thing to be aware of is sometimes people form a trust but
they don’t transfer the assets like the title to real estate well then you need
to look and see if in your father’s estate plan he executed a durable
financial power of attorney and if he named you as agent the ones I draft
often say that my agent may take assets and pour them into my trust plan so for
example let’s say there’s a piece of real estate your father never
retitled it’s possible you could act as his agent to retitle that piece of real
estate into the name of this trust if you get it into the name of the trust
then it would avoid probate upon his death and it sounds like your goal here
is to avoid probate on these assets so you want to make sure that as many
assets as he owns are all retitled or assigned into the name of the trust I
recommend working with an experienced estate playing and probate attorney to
accomplish this because it sounds like you’re on a very short timeline great
question and thank you for asking