Estate Planning Is Not About What You Own... It's About What You Value.

Amending Estate Planning Documents

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This last week, I reviewed two different trusts that both had been “amended” by the grantor, without the assistance of a competent trust attorney.  Both had made potentially fatal flaws by attempting to DIY.

In one, the grantor attempted to grant all of her descendants the right to live in her house at any time, until such time that her descendants decided to eventually sell the property.  But in making this change, she actually revoked the language that specified who should receive distribution of trust assets at the time of sale.  Beyond that, simply granting numerous descendants the right to live in a relatively small home that may only properly accommodate one of many families who may want to make use of it, without rules that define who is selected to ultimately reside there and how they might be removed, could easily set the stage for serious family contention.

In another, it was discovered that changes in the trust documents, combined with changes to titling of trust assets, were going to result in a massively different outcome than what the grantor was attempting to achieve.

In a previous case from approximately five years ago, someone attempted to cross out a section of a trust.  In this case, it was not clear who even attempted to make this change and it lead to almost $30,000 in attorney fees between the multiple parties who were attempting to sort out the impact of this scenario.

The bottom line is, consulting with competent trust counsel to make changes to your documents, while it involves some expenses, may be the best money ever spent when attempting to preserve your estate and the relationships between your heirs.  A competent attorney can help you understand the consequences of your amendments and help you think through steps necessary to achieve your goals, in addition to making sure your amendments are valid and enforceable.