If a Trust Can't be Party to Contract, How Are Owners Confirmed?

7 Replies

"A Trust name is not party to a contract, it is not a legal person as a corporation is. The Trustee is the proper signatory. "

Well this properties deed is under "Spratling Living Trust". There are three co-owners with 3 different last names. 

So how does escrow/title company know that these 3 are the three owners of this trust? How is ownership confirmed? 

Should the trust name be anywhere on the Purchase contract?

@Josef Roberge

Confused by your post... If a trust is an owner I would think the trust name would be indicated as a seller on a contract.  Review the title report carefully, it should all be there.  As far as the signing then a trustee typically signs "in their capacity", something like this:

Joe Smith as Trustee for the Bill Miller Living Trust

Escrow probably would not be concerned with "...that these 3 are the owners of the trust?" or not...  All they care about is who's the trustee and do they have authority to sell the property.  As far as who owns the trust or who is a beneficiary, that's the trustee's fiduciary responsibility to sort out.

A living trust is frequently set up to use the trustors ssn rather than an EIN, so I can see someone saying "it's not a legal person" in a poor attempt to explain something to you.  But when the title report is run and the trust shows as an owner that does make it a legal person doesn't it, unless there's property title now vesting to stones and Oldsmobiles.  I guess I wouldn't be surprised.

But if the trust name is indicated on the contract, who signs? There are 3 equal owners. There's multiple spots throughout the contract where it says "The Spratling Living Trust" and just 1 signature line. 

A trustee signs as the authorized signer of a trust using their personal signature and then indicate it's in their capacity as trustee.  Doing this is part of keeping proper separation between legal entities, in your example:

By: (Trustee Signature)

Its: (Trustee)

@Josef Roberge

A trust is an entity. You are confusing the trustee and the beneficiaries.  Consider the beneficiaries as owners of the trust. The trust owns the property the trustee signs the documents.   if directed by the beneficiaries or director of the trust the trustee will distribute the funds to the beneficiaries based on percentage of ownership. 

Okay, so I would need to add three of those lines By/Its ? For all three co-owners then?

This may be getting too technical and will have to ask an attorney... But  the issue arises elsewhere too, like in the notices section. It refers to "If to Seller", and after that is "With a Copy to" like for the attorney.

But there's 3 sellers, 3 different addresses. Don't they all need to be classified as "If to seller" not just a "copy" to?

Do I use the Trust name for each address block, and then put Attention to:?  very confusing. 

@Josef Roberge

It seems you're trying to complete the closing paperwork by yourself. I would not, especially when a trust is involved. 

At a minimum, ask the title company for assistance. If they know what they're doing, they will help. I've heard stories of incompetent title companies, however. You best bet, of course, is an attorney, and I'm not one.

As the title company, we will require either the trust documents themselves, or a trust certificate... in order to identify the current Trustee(s), who may/must sign, and confirm that they are authorized to buy or sell, as the case may be.

Further, as the buyer... you don't care who on the seller side receives Notices under the agreement. Not your decision to make and not your problem, provided you have an address for the seller.