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How to Change a Trust

It is not uncommon to want to change a trust after it is made. Reasons include changed circumstances, such as an illness, death, or divorce, or more simply that you have changed your mind.   The good news is you can change a Living Revocable Trust. Its very name describes tells you that it is revocable. That means as long as you, the “Trustor,” are alive and competent you can completely revoke or just make a few changes to the terms of the trust. (Note–no one can change an Irrevocable Trust, which is what your Living Revocable Trust turns into when you are dead.)

It is important to follow the correct legal format for making changes to a trust. You cannot just get out a pen and write down the changes you wish to make on the document. This approach will be ignored and could invalidate the whole living revocable trust document. Like any legal document, the correct legal format must be used if you want to have the changes upheld by the court.

If you just want to make a few changes to your living revocable trust, such as adding or deleting a specific bequest, changing who will serve as Successor Trustee, or simply updating a beneficiary’s or Successor Trustee’s legal name due to marriage or divorce, you could consider a trust amendment. A trust amendment is a legal document that is used to change one or more minor provisions of a living revocable trust.

To be legal, a trust amendment should be titled as an amendment to the specific trust being amended. The trust’s name, date and the trustee should be set forth. The language in the trust which gives you the right to make an amendment should be referenced. The part of the trust that you want to amend should be identified and “deleted,” which is done by specifically stating in the amendment exactly what language is no longer valid in the original trust.

Next, the rewritten section should be restated in its entirety. Because the amendment is a legal document, the trust amendment must be signed, witnessed and notarized (if that was the way the original trust was executed). The amendment must then be kept with the original trust.

If you have a number of changes to make to the trust or you wish to make major changes, it would be best to make a Trust Restatement instead of an amendment. A Trust Restatement completely supersedes the terms of the original trust agreement. The original name and date of your Living Revocable Trust will stay the same, but each and every provision of the original agreement will be replaced by the terms of the restatement.

A restatement should also be used when you’ve made a series of three or four simple Trust Amendments over the past 10-15 years and you want to make another change. That way you can consolidate all of your changes into a complete Amendment and Restatement. This will make it easier to follow the trust intent without of piecing together the provisions of the four or five separate documents.

The nice thing about using either a Trust Amendment or Restatement to make your changes is that the original name and date of your Revocable Living Trust remain the same. That way, all of the hard work you put into funding your Revocable Living Trust under the original trust name and date won’t need to be redone. The trust will still “own” all of its property. The property will just be governed under the new terms you create through the amendment or restatement.

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