Amending Your Trust Document

If you need to make changes to your living trust after you sign it and fund it, you have a few options.

You can make simple amendments to trust document you make with Nolo’s Online Living Trust, even after you sign it.

Who Can Amend Your Trust Document

Who can amend the terms of a living trust document depends on whether you created an individual living trust or a shared one.

Individual living trust. If you created an individual living trust, you can amend the trust document at any time.

Shared living trust. If you made a trust with your spouse or partner, then while both of you are alive, you both must agree to amend any provision of the trust document -- for example, to change a beneficiary, a successor trustee or the property management set up for a young beneficiary. After one grantor dies, the shared living trust is split into two trusts, one of which can no longer be amended. (This is explained in After a Grantor Dies.)

Adding or Deleting Property

If you acquire valuable items of property after you create your living trust, you should promptly add them to the trust. You might also want to remove some items.

There are four steps to take:

Step 1: Revise your property schedule – Schedule A-- adding new items or deleting old ones. You can revise your property schedule by recreating it using a word processing program or typewriter. Double check to make sure it lists every single item of property that you want in your trust.

Step 2: Sign the revised property schedule it and replace the old one on your signed original trust document.

Step 3: If you added property, transfer ownership of the property to yourself as trustee. You'll need to change the property's title document or, if the item doesn't have a title document, use the Assignment of Property form, showing that you are holding the item in trust. (See Transferring Property to the Trust.) If you removed an item, transfer it out of the trust, either by changing its title document (a deed, for example) or using an Assignment of Property that transfers it from you as trustee to you as individual.

Step 4: If you need to name a beneficiary for property you've added, create an amended trust document (as discussed below). You won't need to amend your trust document if you left all your trust property to one person or if you want the new property to go to the residuary beneficiary.

EXAMPLE: Rose and her husband Michael created a trust several years ago. Now they're buying a house and take title as "Rose Morris and Michael Morris, Trustees of the Rose Morris and Michael Morris Revocable Living Trust dated January 13, 20xx." They then prepare a revised Schedule A (which lists co-owned property) of their trust document, print it out, sign it and replace the old Schedule A.

Because their trust document leaves all their property to each other, they do not need to amend their trust document.

Trust Amendments

After you have signed your trust document, you can make simple changes to its provisions using an amendment form. The amendment form will state what you want to change – for example you could remove one beneficiary and replace it with another.

Here are some of the changes you can make with a trust amendment:

  • name a different successor trustee
  • name or change beneficiaries to inherit your trust property
  • name a different person to make incapacity decisions, or
  • change property management for young beneficiaries.

An amendment document is a simple document that clearly states the changes you want. You must sign it and have it notarized. You can find a trust amendment online or in some self-help books.

If you have complicated or many changes to make, see a lawyer for help. Complicated amendments may cause more problems than they solve, and a good lawyer can help you make adjustments you need with clarity.

For seriously complex changes, you may need to revoke your existing trust and create a new one. This will require transferring all of your trust property into your new trust. In other words, it requires retitling all of your titled trust property into the name of the new trust. While this is a hassle (and is unnecessary for simple changes), if you have any inkling that your changes may be too complicated for a simple trust amendment, see a lawyer for advice.

Restatements

In some cases, a trust can be “amended and restated.” This involves revising the trust as a whole and, restating all of its provisions. The main advantage to this approach is that you can make many changes, without needing to retitle any property – because the trust retains the same name. Nolo’s Online Living Trust does not provide this option. If you think this might be the best solution for changes you want to make to your living trust, see a lawyer for help.

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