You have three options when it comes to changing the terms of your trust.
You can change revocable living trust by amending it, restating it, or revoking it and opening a new one
Trust property can typically be added or removed without amending the trust itself
Generally you cannot amend an irrevocable trust
There are a few different ways to amend a trust. The person who opens a trust (grantor or settlor) can write an amendment, have their trust restated, or revoke the trust and open a new one. Amending a trust refers to changing the terms of the trust document, like the beneficiary or trustee. You usually don’t need to amend the trust if you want to remove or add assets and property. (You can learn more how to do that in this guide: how to set up a trust.)
A trust is an important part of an estate plan and it can give you more security over how your assets will be distributed, compared to a will. You should amend your trust as often as necessary, such after you get married, divorced, or have children. Typically you can only amend a revocable trust; an irrevocable trust can only be changed in narrow circumstances.
To make changes to a living trust, you must have consent from all the other grantors, like your spouse if you opened a joint trust together. (You do not need permission from a beneficiary, or the trustee, which is probably the same person as the grantor.)
These are the three main ways to amend a trust:
You can make changes to your revocable living trust by using a trust amendment form and storing it with the original trust document.
To write a trust amendment, you must include the following information:
The trust amendment form must be notarized in order to serve as a legal document.
Learn how to notarize your estate plan documents.
With trust restatement, the original terms are rewritten with your desired changes. This is done by creating a new document, which is called “Amendment and restatement of declaration of trust,” or something similar. A restated trust still has the same name as the original trust.
Restatement is suited for a more significant change, like writing out a beneficiary or changing how the assets are distributed. A trust restatement is also helpful when you've already added numerous trust amendments, and you want all of the new changes to be collected in one place. (You will have fewer estate planning documents floating around.)
Another way to make changes is simply to start fresh. You can close, or dissolve, your revocable living trust and then open a new one that adheres to your needs. This may seem like a nuisance, as you’d have to go through the process of transferring trust assets back to yourself and then retitling them into the new trust, but it may be easier in some cases. For instance, if are getting a divorce it might be easier to close rather than amend the trust you created with your spouse and create a new one. (You can open a trust with the Policygenius app as part of your estate plan.)
Read more about how how to dissolve a trust.
A trust amendment or even restatement of trust can be free (not including the notarization fee), since you can write up the document yourself or try to find the appropriate form online. However, failing to do this correctly could lead to legal challenges in the future. If the trust amendment or restatement isn’t valid and there's a trust contest, your beneficiaries will have to wait until court proceedings are over for the distribution of trust assets.
You can hire an estate planning attorney to amend a trust but they may charge you a flat fee that is as expensive as the cost of creating the original trust instrument. It all depends on how changes you're trying to make. (Related article: How much does a trust cost?)
Depending on how complex your trust is it may be more cost-effective to close your trust and open a new one. For example, you can open a living trust with the Policygenius app for $280 and you’ll also get a will tailored to your needs. Keep in mind that you have to pay retitling fees again when you transfer assets into your new trust.
An irrevocable trust is one that typically cannot be changed and where the grantor typically doesn’t act as the trustee either. In rare circumstances, it is possible to amend an irrevocable trust, but you may have to appear in court and explain your case. You’ll also need to get permission from all trustees and beneficiaries.
Since it can be very difficult to amend an irrevocable trust, depending on your state's trust law, it’s best to consult with an attorney to set up the trust that fits your needs. Irrevocable trusts often have added benefits that a living trust does not.
See if an irrevocable trust is right for you.
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Elissa is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She writes about estate planning, mortgages, and occasionally health insurance. In the past she has written about film and music.
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