Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Foreign Citizen Named as Trustee of Trust

A recent question from a client has prompted this blog. The client asked whether a sibling who lived in another country could serve as the trustee of the client's trust.

Issue: Authority of a Canadian citizen as the duly-appointed trustee of a trust, created pursuant to U.S. and Utah law, to access the trust's Zions Bank account.

Hypothetical Scenario:

  • U.S. Citizen and Utah resident--John Smith--creates a revocable trust: "The John Smith Revocable Trust, dated 12/10/2010" ("Trust").

  • John Smith goes through the process of setting up a Zions Bank account owned by the Trust. Zions Bank secures for its records a certified copy of the Trust, and the account is set up using John Smith's social security number (the Trust being revocable and John Smith being the grantor and original trustee).

  • On Zion's Bank records the account is listed as owned by "The John Smith Revocable Trust, dated 12/10/2010."

  • The Trust names John's sister--Mary Smith, a Canadian citizen (not dual U.S./Canadian--only Canadian)--as the successor trustee upon John's death. (We can state without hesitation that nothing in the Utah Probate Code prohibits a foreign citizen from acting as a trustee of a domestic trust.)

  • John dies.

  • Mary Smith files an SS4, securing a TIN for John Smith's now irrevocable Trust.

  • Mary Smith comes into a Zions Bank branch with a Canadian Passport and other identifying documents and the IRS letter showing the TIN, and asks to access the $100,000 Trust account.

  • Zions Bank (1) examines the Trust on record to ensure Mary Smith is named as the successor trustee, (2) secures copies of Mary Smith's identification, and (3) confirms or secures a copy of the TIN for the now irrevocable Trust.


  • Given the above facts, can Mary Smith, as a Canadian citizen, manage the Zions Bank account, withdrawing and distributing funds as necessary and required under the Trust?

  • What other procedures would Zions Bank require in this situation to allow Mary Smith to access the Trust account?

  • Is there anything in banking law or Zions Bank policies and procedures generally that prohibits a foreign citizen from serving as trustee of a domestic trust?
Mary Smith, as a Canadian citizen, can manage the Zions Bank account, withdraw and distribute funds as necessary and required under the Trust after doing the following:

  • Fill out a W-8ECI to establish tax residency. (W-8ECI and Instructions)

  • Give Zions Bank contact information.

  • Prove identity (e.g. passport).

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