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Amending or Revoking a Living Trust Document

You can change the terms of your living trust, or revoke it, at any time.

By , J.D.

Most of us make more than one will during our lifetimes; circumstances change, and our estate planning needs to change, too. Like a will, a living trust can be altered whenever you wish. One of the most attractive features of a revocable living trust is its flexibility: You can change its terms, or end it altogether, at any time.

If you created a shared trust with your spouse, either of you can revoke it. If, however, you want to change any trust provisions—for example, change a beneficiary or successor trustee—both of you must agree in writing. And both spouses will probably have to consent to transfer real estate out of the living trust; buyers and title insurance companies usually insist on both spouses' signatures on transfer documents. After one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is free to amend the terms of the trust document that deal with his or her property, but can't change the parts that determine what happens to the deceased spouse's trust property.

You can make a valid living trust, quickly and easily, with Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust.

Amending or Revoking Your Living Trust

You may need to amend if…

You may need to revoke if…

  • You get married.
  • You have a child.
  • You add valuable property to the trust.
  • You change your mind about whom you want to inherit certain items of trust property or whom you want to serve as successor trustee.
  • You move to a state with different laws about marital property or property management for young beneficiaries.
  • Your spouse dies.
  • A major beneficiary dies.
  • You want to make extensive, possibly confusing revisions.
  • You get divorced.

When you want to change a will, the conventional (and usually the best) way to proceed is to revoke the will entirely and write a new one. With a living trust, however, the situation is somewhat different. You've already transferred property to the trust; you don't want to revoke the trust, create a new one, and transfer the property all over again. That involves expense and hassle. But adding amendments to an existing document can cause confusion.

The solution is to "restate" the living trust document. In other words, you create an entirely new trust document—but you don't revoke the original one, you just restate it with some changes. That lets you keep the original date of the trust and means that you don't have to do anything with property that's already held in the trust.

Example: Sonia makes a living trust and signs a new deed to her house, transferring the property to the living trust. (Actually, she transfers it to herself as trustee of the trust.) In the trust document, she names her sister as her successor trustee. Five years later, she wants to name her brother as successor trustee instead. She creates a new trust document that's clearly identified as a restatement of the original one—it explicitly states that all trust terms stay the same except her choice of successor trustee—and signs it. The change is made, and all the property she's already transferred to the trust stays in the trust.

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