Living Trusts and Name Changes

Question:

I recently changed my name. Should I update my living trust?

Answer:

In most cases, it makes sense to update a living trust after changing your name. A name change often indicates a significant life change-- like getting married or divorced-- and such life changes provide an important opportunity to revisit and update your estate plan, including your living trust.

If the title of your living trust contains your name (as the title of Nolo trusts do), you will need to make a new trust, not just update your old one. Making a new trust will require that you transfer your trust property from your old trust into your new one, using your new name. For example, if Sarah Smith’s house is owned by her living trust, when she changes her name to Sarah Gonzales, she’ll need to change the deed to say that the house is now owned by "The Sarah Gonzales Living Trust.” Making your new trust and transferring the property may require a bit of work (and money), but you’ll just have to think of it as one of the many hassles involved with changing your name.

What happens if you don’t update your trust? If you don’t update your living trust, it will still be valid under your former name. As long as it's clear to everyone involved that the trust is yours, the terms of your trust will still be followed. That said, most life changes that prompt a name change also prompt other changes. For example, if you get married (or divorced), you will likely want to make changes to what property is in your trust or who will get it when you die. But if you have no other changes to make – if your name is the only thing that’s changed – and if you don’t anticipate any confusion about your name change, you could consider not updating your trust, allowing your old name to remain on your trust until you have additional changes to make.

Reminder: If and when you do make a new trust, you must transfer property out of your old trust and into your new one.

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