Trusts can be modified through amendments when you want to change or add beneficiaries, change disposition of assets in the trust, or change trustees. Amendments are made by a writing, called an amendment to the trust, which explains the changes, specifies the new additions or deletions, and then is signed and dated by you. You should never detach a page from the trust document, retype it to include the new information, and put it back in, because this could invite a legal challenge from a disgruntled non-beneficiary or require a court’s interpretation of the trust. Here are the steps you need to take in order to amend your trust:
- Locate the original living trust documents and find the provisions that you want to amend or change.
- Draft a trust amendment form.
- Bring the trust grantors and trustees named in the trust document in front of a notary public.
- Sign and date the amendment and ask the notary to notarize your signature.
- Attach the original amendment that you just created to the original trust papers.
- If you are making a lot of changes to the trust, it is recommended to change the entire trust document with a new trust instead of an amendment form.
If you simply want to add property to the trust, you don’t have to write an amendment. A properly drafted trust will contain language giving you the right to include property acquired after the trust is drafted. You simply make sure the new property is titled as being owned by the trust and list it on the schedule of assets in the trust. However, you do have to amend the trust if the newly acquired property is going to a different beneficiary than the one already named in the trust, or if the trust has more than one beneficiary listed.
Sometimes adding a lot more property or making significant changes to the trust would cause confusion if you want to amend the trust. This process may involve expense and hassle and the addition of the amendment to an existing document can cause confusion. The solution to this would be to restate the trust document by creating an entirely new trust document. Restating a trust document allows you to keep the original date of the original trust and allows you to not change anything to the property that is already in the trust.
If you want to make major changes to your trust, you can either revoke the trust or restate the trust in its entirety, with all the changes in the restated version. Occasionally, when a trust is revoked and replaced with another one, all the assets will not be transferred from the old trust to the new one. Restating a trust makes sure that all the assets remain in the trust and new ones are added.
Many people amend or change their trust for the following reasons:
- They get married and want to add the spouse
- They have children and want to add the children
- Want to add other valuable property to the trust
- They change their mind about who they want as beneficiaries
- They move to a state with different laws about marital property
- A spouse who is a beneficiary dies
- A major beneficiary dies
Trusts can be complicated documents and circumstances often occur which require a trust to be amended. If you need your trust amended, an estate planning lawyer can help execute the proper documents and ensure amendments are done properly so that you avoid legal problems.