A family trust (also known as a living trust or discretionary trust) defines the management and distribution of property and assets, and helps the family avoid probate, reduce estate taxes, preserve privacy, and manage financial affairs. Family trusts are recorded, or registered, at county clerk and recorder's offices, so if you want to find family trust records, you need to first find the county where the trust is registered.
- Skill level:
Find the county where the trust is recorded. One way is to identify where family members work and live. For example, if most family members live in and around Atlanta, Georgia, you'll want to check the clerk and recorder's office in Fulton County.
Visit the clerk and recorder's office if feasible. However, if you're not within travelling distance, contact the recorder's office by phone, e-mail or letter, and ask how to best search for recorded family trust records in its office.
Find the family trust name. First, look up the family name (for example, Smith Cooper) in the granter/grantee index in the recorder's office; within those records, you'll find the family trust name. Sometimes family trust names contain the actual family name (for example, Smith Cooper Family Trust), or sometimes they are more obscure (such as Bear Care Family Trust).
Use the family trust name to search all related documents at the recorder's office (results might include real property deeds, liens, judgments, mortgages, or amendments to the trust).
Hire a private investigator to dig deeper for the information, if necessary. To find an experienced investigator, contact your state professional private investigator association (PI Magazine lists all state PI associations---go to PImagazine.com, and under the "PI Links" in the top blue bar, select "State Associations - USA."
Tips and warnings
- If you need to identify the county in which a certain city is located, go to Rootsweb.ancestry.com, scroll down to "Search Engine and Databases" on the left side of the page, click the "U.S. Town/County Database" link, and follow the instructions.
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