Can you amend your living trust without an attorney in Arizona? When and how should you do so? 

Most financial experts say that you should go over your estate plan every few years to make sure everything is updated. Making changes to a living trust requires some preparation, and you don’t want to miss a step with something this important.

Life can bring many unexpected changes, so reviewing your living trust and will is a good way to make sure they still reflect your wishes. We’ll go over examples of when to amend your trust, the steps for making an amendment, and in what circumstances you may need to seek legal guidance.

When to Amend Your Living Trust

You may alter living trusts (also called revocable trusts) any time during your life. Here are some major changes that could signal it’s time to review your trust:

  • Marriage or divorce
  • Adoption or birth
  • A beneficiary death
  • Changing the trustee
  • Moving to another state
  • Adding or changing a beneficiary
  • Acquiring new property you want to add

These are just some example events, and there are many other times you may wish to change your living trust. Significant changes in your life won’t always require you to make changes to your trust but they’re a sign to review. If you don’t know whether you should make a change to your trust, speaking with an estate planning attorney is a helpful step to take.

Do You Need to Consult a Lawyer for Creating a Trust?

Some people choose to hire an estate planning attorney to help them with creating a trust and making changes to it.  It’s not necessary for some people, and many make successful living trusts on their own. However, if you’re dealing with a complicated estate or have specific questions you need help with, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney. 

If your plan has conditions for beneficiaries, generation skipping, or beneficiaries on government support, you’ll benefit from legal guidance. In addition, if the trust involves beneficiaries with special needs or a valuable life insurance policy, you may need to consult a lawyer.

Amending a Living Trust

If you want to amend or revoke a revocable living trust, you may do so either with an attorney or without one. You may make amendments to a living trust without going to court. Here are some of the steps you’ll need to complete during the process:

Be Specific and Clear

It’s important that you specify whether or not your amendment to the trust is to replace something from the original. Be clear so that your successor trustee knows how to distribute the property you leave behind and carry out your other wishes. Also include what you’re changing, the date, and the name of the trust.

Use Online Forms for a Living Trust

You should be able to find a form online for making changes to your revocable living trust. If you’re going through an online service to make amendments, they’ll likely supply you with these forms.

Get the Change Notarized

Don’t sign the amendment to the living trust until you’re with a notary (and be prepared to pay a fee). If you and your spouse share the trust, you’ll both need to sign. Present the amendment form stapled to the original trust.

Keep Your Amendment With Your Trust Document

Store your amendment and trust document together. Keep it in a spot that your successor trustee can easily access when necessary. You have a few options for where to keep it, including a lawyer’s office or an online service that stores documents. If you keep the amendment and trust in a safe, make sure that you put the safe in the living trust. Without doing this, probate court will seal the contents and the trustee won’t be able to access them.

Restatement vs. Amendments of a Trust

If you need to make substantial changes to your trust, doing a restatement of trust may be more beneficial for you than a simple amendment. Let’s look at trust restatements versus amendments, so you know which is best for your situation:

Amendment

If you just need to delete or add a specific bequest, change the name of the trustee, or change a beneficiary’s legal name, you’ll just need to make a trust amendment.

Restatement

A restatement is a better option for making changes that are more significant, such as cutting a beneficiary out or adding a new spouse to your trust.

If you’ve already made multiple simple amendments within the last decade and want to change something else, think about consolidating the changes into an Amendment and Restatement. This can simplify the process of finding information for the Successor Trustee by giving them an organized sheet of updated information.

What About Irrevocable Trusts?

A revocable trust is irrevocable as soon as the grantor passes on, and you can’t amend it in most cases. A revocable trust gives you the ability to control and maintain ownership of your assets, unlike an irrevocable trust. While you can’t change irrevocable trusts under most circumstances, it might be possible if an estate planning attorney helps you. In addition, you may be able to amend an irrevocable trust without going to court if the trustee and beneficiaries are okay with the changes.

Should You Work with an Attorney for Amending Your Trust?

As mentioned, any time you go through a major life change, you should go over your estate plan. Knowing when you should make changes to your trust is essential for having a plan that aligns with your wishes. But when you need to make an amendment, it’s not as simple as crossing something out on the form and rewriting it. 

Trust amendments require similar formalities as the original instatement process a trust, so simply writing over something won’t be legally recognized. With something this impactful, it’s not worth it to take chances. Ask an estate planning attorney for help with preparing the amendment, so that it legally applies to your beneficiaries.

Call Arizona Estate Attorney Dave Weed at (480)467-4325 to discuss your case today.

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