This week I met with a client who was interested in making a trust amendment. Her attorney retired a couple of years ago. She wasn’t sure if she needed to draft a whole new trust, restate her current trust, or just do a quick amendment to the trust. Since her attorney retired, she wasn’t sure what to do next. She had looked at a few websites online before realizing that it wasn’t something she was comfortable trying to do herself.
What is a Trust Amendment?
The amendment is a separate legal document that changes specific portions of your trust. It leaves the rest of the trust unchanged. This is different from a restatement, which is used to replace and supersede all of the provisions of your trust. There’s no set rule for when an amendment is used instead of a restatement, but generally, an amendment is used for small changes, such as
- Changing successor trustees;
- Updating someone’s name (they got married or divorced); and
- Adding or deleting specific bequests.
Over time, however, your amendments can add up. If it takes you more than one hand to count your amendments, it may be time restate your trust to make sure you have one coherent document for your trustees to work with.
When Should I Use a Restatement?
When you are making significant changes to a trust, a restatement is often a better option. There can be many different major changes, but some examples are
- Removing a beneficiary from the trust;
- Adding a new spouse as beneficiary; and
- Changing distributions for charitable reasons.
Whether you are considering an amendment or a restatement, it’s a good idea to at least consult with an attorney who can help parse out the issues for you.