Changing a Living Trust

The process is not as difficult as it sounds, but it does require some preparation. If certain circumstances have changed, what seemed like a good idea yesterday may not be what you need today.

Amending a Living Trust: When Should You Do It?

Revocable trusts, sometimes referred to as living trusts, are easily changed. When you have significant changes in your life, reviewing and updating your living trust would be wise. One or more of the following changes could be made:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth or adoption of a child
  • Death of a beneficiary
  • Your desire to change:
    • The manner in which the property is distributed
    • Which properties are part of the trust
    • provide your name
  • A new property has been acquired that you want to include in the trust
  • The inheritance laws of another state were different when I moved there

Listed here are only a few examples. A revocable living trust can also be changed if circumstances change. Talk to an estates and trusts attorney if you have questions about whether your situation calls for a living trust amendment.

Why You Should Review Your Trust After a Significant Life Change

Changes in your life, such as those listed above, may not require you to adjust your revocable living trust. Nevertheless, a red flag should be raised to the extent that you review the trust to see how it relates to your current situation.

As an example, if you are recently divorced and your former spouse is still a beneficiary of your living trust, he or she can inherit your property if you outlive him or her. You should immediately remove your former spouse as a beneficiary from your living trust.

Similarly, if you acquire a new property, especially if it is expensive, you should include an amendment to your revocable living trust. In order to keep that expensive property from going through probate, the living trust must be changed.

What is the process for amending or revoking a trust?

If you are revocable, you can amend your will or revocation without the aid of an attorney. Without having to go to court, you can amend a living trust. The process can be accomplished in a few different ways. You can do it yourself, using living trust forms you find online, you can use an online service, or you can use an attorney.

The Benefits of a Living Trust for Your Family and Assets

For a small fee, you should be able to make changes to a document that was created through an online service. If you have a subscription, some services will not charge you for modifying it. Having an attorney represent you directly is beneficial also an option, although generally, it’s the most expensive one. If you already have a living trust that you originally created with the help of an attorney, you may want to find a more convenient and affordable option. Oftentimes, revocation and establishing a new trust is more cost-effective in these circumstances.

Changing, revoking, or amending a living trust

Here are the steps for amending or revoking a living trust:

  1. Online living trust forms are available. You can amend revocable living trusts online using several different forms. There is no such thing as a perfect form, so choose one you like and can use easily. When you use an online service, the forms should already be available to you.
  2. Try to be as specific as possible. It is important for your successor trustee to understand how your property will be distributed. For modifying a trust, no specific language is required so long as you include the trusted name, the date, and what you are changing-whether it is adding or deleting.
  3. Language specifics are required. This amendment should either add something to the original trust or replace something there. Your intentions will be carried out to the fullest extent by the successor trustee if you follow the instructions in this letter.
  4. The amendment should be notarized. The amendment must be signed in the presence of a notary. In the case of a joint trust, make sure both you and your spouse sign the amendment. Make sure that each signature is notarized. You’ll usually have to pay for each signature, so be prepared. The original trust document should be attached to the amendment form.
  5. Ensure that your trust document and amendment are kept together. Similarly, you will want to keep your amendment wherever you keep the original trust document. Choose a location that is easy to reach for the successor trustee. Documents such as these can be stored online with online storage services. Alternatively, your lawyer can keep it in their office. In general, you shouldn’t keep your trust or amendment in a safe deposit box unless you transfer the safe deposit box to the trust. During the probate process, the contents of your safe deposit box will be sealed by the probate court and your trustee will not have access to them. Safe deposit boxes that are not placed in the trust will cause additional fees and time.
  6. Alternatively, you may want to restate the trust. Perhaps a restatement of trust would be better if substantial changes need to be made. In this case, you keep the original trust, but recreate it to keep it with the existing property. The trust can be rewritten as a new document with the necessary changes, which avoids the confusion that can arise from an amendment.
  7. Revocation of your trust. Revocable trusts can be revoked at any time. There is the option of restating the trust or revoking it if numerous changes are needed. If you’re not sure which option is best for you, speak with a lawyer.

Irrevocable Trusts: Can You Amend or Revoke Them?

Irrevocable trusts do not allow you to keep control of your assets, while revocable trusts do. An attorney can provide specific guidance and advice on the creation of these trusts. It is essentially impossible to revoke or change an irrevocable living trust by definition. A lawyer who specializes in estate planning may be able to assist in this process. A court order has to be obtained if the trustee, beneficiaries, and the executor all do not agree to the change. It depends on the laws of your state and the terms of the irrevocable living trust whether you are able to revoke or change an irrevocable trust in court.

Upon death, an revocable living trust becomes irrevocable and cannot generally be changed.

It is vital that you know when to amend your living trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan. You should review your estate plan whenever you undergo a major life change. You may not need to make significant changes to your trust and will, but significant changes in your life may justify reviewing your estate plan. A qualified estate planning attorney should be consulted when in doubt.

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