How to Amend a Living Trust

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

How to Amend a Living Trust

By Stephanie Kurose, J.D.

A living trust is a legal document created by a grantor that transfers ownership of the grantor's assets from the grantor to the trust. The living trust subsequently has control over the assets during the grantor's lifetime and sets out how the assets will be distributed upon the grantor's death. The grantor designates trustees, who manage the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. Typically, the grantor is also the trustee as long as she is still alive, although this is not a requirement.

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There are many reasons why a grantor may need to amend a living trust. The grantor might wish to add, alter, or remove certain assets in the trust, add or remove a beneficiary, or change the distribution of the assets. To do any of these things, the grantor must prepare a separate document, known as a trust amendment, that details the changes. The original trust should also have a specific provision allowing for amendments.

It's important to understand what type of trust a grantor has before being able to make any changes. There are irrevocable trusts, which are very difficult to make changes to as they're created to be permanent documents that can't be changed, and then there are revocable living trusts, which are flexible and can easily be changed. Amending the original living trust involves a few relatively straightforward steps.

1. Locate the original trust.

The grantor must locate the original trust documents and identify the specific provisions that require amendment. The grantor should never alter the original trust document directly, as this could cause legal challenges in the future. The changes should instead appear in the separate trust amendment.

2. Prepare an amendment form.

To prepare an amendment form, the grantor can either create one from scratch or find a template on the internet. There are many trust-amendment templates available for free or for a nominal fee. Regardless of which method the grantor chooses, information required on the form includes:

  • The name of the trust
  • The name of the grantor and trustees, according to the original trust document
  • The date of the original trust
  • The specific provision in the original trust allowing for amendments
  • The specific provision in the original trust that the grantor wants to amend and details of those changes

The grantor should indicate in the opening sentence their intention to amend the trust, using language such as "I hereby amend this trust as follows."

3. Get the amendment form notarized.

The grantor of the trust is the only person allowed to make changes to the trust during her lifetime. However, the trustees must sign off on any changes made. The grantor and the trustees—if they are different people—must sign and date the amendment form in front of a notary public. They must also specify their roles (e.g., John Smith, trustee).

4. Attach amendment form to original trust.

The last step in executing the amendment is to attach the notarized amendment form to the original trust documents. Keep these documents in a safe place. If you filed the original trust with the county, be sure to file the amendment in that same county as well.

Whenever a living trust needs to be amended, grantors can repeat this process each time they wish to change something in the original trust. If you need help when amending a living trust, consider the assistance of an attorney to avoid any legal challenges.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.