Trusts: The difference between amendments and restatements

Some people have revocable trusts as part of their estate plan, or are named as beneficiaries in another person’s trust.  The potential benefits of a trust include keeping affairs private, avoiding probate, and fluid administration in the event of incapacity or death.  A revocable trust can be modified while the Grantor is alive.

Revising the terms of a trust is known as “amending” the trust. An amendment is generally appropriate when there are only a few minor changes to make, like rewording a certain paragraph, changing the successor trustee, or modifying beneficiaries. The amendment acts as a patch to the trust and both documents (trust and amendments) must be kept as long as the trust is in effect.  A trust can be amended any number of times. 

If it becomes confusing to have multiple documents (trust agreement and amendments), or if more extensive changes are desired, it may be appropriate to fully “restate” the trust.  When doing this, it means all prior documents can be ignored; the new version of the trust is the new governing documents.  It retains the trust’s original name, original date, and original Grantor(s), but everything else gets rewritten.

Fully restating the trust versus doing an amendment is at the discretion of the attorney preparing the documents.  The choice may depend on cost, how many parts of the trust are impacted, how many current amendments are in effect, and how quickly it needs to get done.  Neither one is necessarily better than the other.  Your beneficiaries are eventually entitled to a copy of the trust and all of its amendments, so a full restatement may be less confusing and won’t show the trail of changes made over the years.