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Codified at SDCL 55-4-51.3 as part of the Uniform Trusts Act, the certificate of trust "in support of a real property transaction" is recorded in the South Dakota county where the subject property is located and "serves to document the existence of the trust...and other matters...as though the full trust instrument had been recorded" (SDCL 55-4-51.3, 55-4-51.1).
In a trust relationship, a settlor transfers property to another person (trustee), who holds it for the benefit of a third (beneficiary). In the course of their fiduciary duties, trustees may present a certificate to parties who are not beneficiaries of the trust in lieu of providing the entire trust instrument. The trust instrument, executed by the settlor, establishes the trust and sets forth directions for its administration, including designating the trustee, the trustee's powers, and identifying a trust beneficiary. The certificate of trust allows the settlor's estate plan to remain off-record by providing only the information about the trust relevant to the transaction at hand.
The document names the trust, its settlor, and each trustee empowered to act for the trust. Aside from certifying the existence of the trust and confirming it has not been revoked or modified in a way that would invalidate the statements contained within, the certificate also confirms the trustee's role and authority to act on behalf of the trust by identifying powers relevant to the transaction, how many trustees are required to carry out those powers (if there are multiple trustees) and any restrictions imposed by a court on those powers (if applicable).
When used in transactions involving real property, the certificate requires a legal description of the subject property. The document must be recorded in the South Dakota county where the subject property is located and in compliance with the recording requirements established at SDCL 43-28-23.
Pursuant to SDCL 55-4-51, the document should be signed by a trustee or settlor (grantor or trustor, as the case may be) in the presence of the notary public witnessing the sworn statements made in the certificate. Recipients may request parts of the trust instrument establishing the trustee and the relevant powers (55-4-52). Persons entering transactions may rely on the statements within the certificate without further inquiry (55-4-53).
Consult a lawyer with questions about South Dakota trusts and certificates of trust, as each situation is unique.
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