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Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many Tweaks Are Too Many?

By Melissa A. Register August 15, 2019 Posted in Trust Administration

If your life or the law has changed since you last reviewed your revocable trust, there’s a good chance that it needs to be updated. Updates can be made by way of an amendment or a complete restatement. An amendment updates a specific part of the trust; whereas, a restatement, updates the entire trust. You might think that an amendment would cost less than a restatement, but that’s not necessarily true.

Imagine a recipe card you’ve used for years. If one or two provisions have been crossed out and replaced, the card may still be readable. However, if many provisions have been altered, the recipe is likely confusing. If your loved ones can’t read your instructions and determine whether to add a cup of flour or a cup of sugar, your recipe won’t work. You’ve got a 50/50 chance for a great dish – or a complete disaster.

The same can be said about revocable trusts. Making one or two amendments is generally acceptable, but when revisions are numerous or comprehensive, your instructions may become confusing, and you may be better served with a restatement.  Your writer once reviewed a revocable trust with fifteen (15) amendments…and it took hours to decipher the (by then deceased) grantor’s intent!

Although amendments are generally used to make smaller changes and restatements are used for larger ones, there’s no bright line rule when it comes to amending or restating a revocable trust. A general guideline to follow is that anytime you’re making more than two changes, restatements are likely better as they:

● Foster ease of understanding and administration

● Tend to avoid ambiguity

● Reduce the amount of paperwork to retain and provide to financial institutions / parties

● Decrease the risk of misplacement

● Provide an opportunity to provide other relevant updates, such as changes in the law

In many cases, a restatement may actually be more cost effective than amendments. This is especially true today as computer software allows estate planning attorneys to create and retain documents easily and efficiently. Fortunately, today, you pay for legal counseling, not typing. Before deciding whether to amend or restate, it’s important to determine whether previous changes have inadvertently altered your intent or might adversely affect how the trust is administered. We’ll help make your instructions clear.

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