Living trusts offer significant protections for your estate and heirs. You set them up with care and thought, but what happens when your circumstances or wishes change? Life isn’t static. You’ll want your trust to remain updated throughout your lifetime.
At AmeriEstate, we recommend that our clients review their estate documents every three to five years. When you need to alter your living trust, you might ask, “Can I amend my trust without an attorney?” Generally, you can. However, working with an attorney ensures your changes offer the protections you need and provide you and your beneficiaries the greatest advantages. Let’s review four things you should know about amending living trusts.
1. When the Answer to “Can I Amend My Living Trust Without an Attorney?” Is “No”
The first thing you need to consider is the type of trust you have. A living trust can either be revocable or irrevocable. If it is the former, you can alter any aspect with or without an attorney. However, if your trust is irrevocable, you need more than just a lawyer’s assistance. As the name implies, you generally can’t revoke an irrevocable living trust. You also can’t make any changes to it. However, there are exceptions to the rule.
Under certain circumstances, alterations and revocations are allowed. However, you will need the court’s approval. A judge might approve a trust amendment if:
- Your circumstances have changed significantly.
- All beneficiaries agree with the modifications you wish to make.
- You need to make changes to comply with federal laws.
- You set up your trust with a Trust Protector who can amend it.
- The trust contains legal or trust errors.
Rules vary by state, so it’s important to find out what your state allows. If you wish to amend an irrevocable living trust, an AmeriEstate attorney can help determine if your circumstances meet your state’s requirements.
2. When Amending a Living Trust Is a Good Idea
Before you decide whether to amend your living trust without an attorney or opt for the assurances working with an AmeriEstate trust lawyer can provide, determine if amending your living trust is a good idea. Though altering your trust might seem like a hassle, we suggest making necessary changes as they arise. Failing to amend your documents leaves you, your estate and your heirs vulnerable to court entanglements should you pass before making desired changes. At the very least, you won’t be able to ensure your new wishes are followed.
In addition to reviewing your estate plan every few years, you should examine whether significant life changes, including trust terms, impact your plan. The following are examples of situations that warrant revisiting your living trust:
- Marital changes: If you get married or divorced, you should review your living trust to ensure your wishes for your end-of-life care, medical and financial proxies and beneficiaries are still valid.
- Family changes: Amending your living trust might be necessary if you have or adopt a child or a beneficiary dies.
- Beneficiary changes: Should you desire to add or remove a beneficiary, you would need to amend your trust. You will also need to alter it if you decide that a beneficiary should not receive their inheritance until they reach a specific age.
- Property changes: If you obtain significant assets, you will need a trust amendment to include it, or the property will go through probate before distribution. Revisiting your trust is also good if you want your assets distributed differently than currently allocated.
- Administrative changes: An amendment is necessary to change your trustee or successor trustee. For example, you will need a revision if you are the trustee during your lifetime but wish to add a joint trustee, such as your spouse.
Furthermore, you may want to revisit your trust if your state or the federal government makes significant changes to tax or inheritance laws. These examples demonstrate the variety of circumstances that necessitate alterations.
Altering your trust isn’t just a matter of writing up the changes you desire. It is often more complex than identifying the change. Though you can answer the question “Can I amend my living trust without an attorney?” with a “yes,” obtaining legal assistance ensures your changes are permitted and your trust remains valid.
3. When Revoking a Living Trust Is a Better Option
If you need to make significant changes to your living trust, you may want to revoke the trust and start from scratch to prevent confusion in administering the trust. Even though you can amend a trust when you divorce, if you share the trust with your spouse or need to divide the property in the trust, revoking it is often a better solution than amending it.
4. How To Amend Your Trust
Amending your trust allows you to maintain the original trust terms other than the changes you identify. Your current living trust remains active. To alter your trust, you will need to complete a trust amendment form. If you work with an AmeriEstate attorney, they’ll guide you through the process, ensuring the language of the amendment is clear.
If you’ve made previous changes, you must indicate when they occurred, whether they are still valid, or if your new amendment overrides them. An attorney can also determine whether you need to complete a trust restatement. Once you complete all desired changes, you will need to get your amendment notarized.
How much does it cost to amend a trust? You won't pay any fees if you opt to amend the trust without an attorney. However, you and your beneficiaries risk losing more than what it would cost to hire an experienced lawyer unless you are familiar with your state’s laws. The cost to work with an attorney varies according to your trust and amendment complexities and the going rate for estate lawyers in your area.
When Contacting AmeriEstate Is the Right Choice
If you are considering amending your living trust, contacting AmeriEstate is the right choice. Our attorneys can help you determine your options and whether an amendment is your best option. Our mission is to provide affordable, personalized estate planning services to people just like you. Get in touch today for a free consultation.