Question: My son’s Godparents both died in Philadelphia with a will and a Revocable Living Trust and the executor will not give me a copy. How do I get a copy of the will and the Revocable Living Trust?
First, the father needs to understand the documents he is requesting. The Will is the document that is filed with the Philadelphia Register of Wills and which then dictates where the deceased’s assets pass after death. The Revocable Living Trust is a document that actually owns assets during lifetime, and then at the grantor’s death, the trust dictates where the assets owned by the Revocable Living Trust pass. Assets in the Revocable Living Trust are not “owned” by the deceased, so the Will has not effect over them.
In this situation, it seems that when the Godparents died, they may have had some assets in their Revocable Living Trust, but they may have also owned some assets in their own names. For example, they may have placed their house into the Revocable Living Trust and kept their checking account in their own names. If so, the house will pass under the terms of the Revocable Living Trust and the checking account will pass under the terms of the Will.
To get a copy of the Will, the father simply needs to go to the Philadelphia Register of Wills. It is a public record, so the father can examine the Will and even make a copy.
The Revocable Living Trust is not a public record. Many people have Klenk Law draft these trusts for privacy reasons. If the Trustee will not voluntarily give the father a copy of the Revocable Living Trust, he will likely have to petition the Philadelphia Orphans’ Court and get the judge to order the copy turned over.
That brings up the issue of standing. Not just anyone can get a copy of the Revocable Living Trust, only people who are interested parties. If the father’s son is not a descendent of the deceased, then he is not automatically seen as an interested party. The son would need to prove that in the prior documents he was an heir, which would mean that he is an interested party because the new Revocable Living Trust excludes him.
The father also needs to consider the statute of limitations on challenging a Will or Revocable Living Trust. The son only has a limited time to challenge these documents, so he needs to act quickly.
If anyone has questions about Philadelphia County Probate or Will Challenges or Trust Challenges, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Wills, Trusts and Estates, It’s all we do!