Update Your California Living Trust: A Quick and Easy Guide

Update Your California Living Trust: A Quick and Easy Guide

Update your California living trust

Congratulations on setting up your living trust! This smart move will protect your assets from the cost and delay of probate and will ensure they’re distributed as you wish. But your work isn’t done. It’s crucial to update your California living trust as your life changes. Whether you’ve experienced marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or acquired new assets, keeping your living trust current is vital.

Life Events that Trigger Trust Updates

Several major life events commonly require you to update your California living trust:

  • Marriage, divorce, or a new domestic partnership can impact inheritance rights and may invalidate previous trust provisions.
  • Birth or adoption of children or grandchildren should be included in the trust to avoid confusion about beneficiaries.
  • Death of a spouse, child, in-law, or grandchild named in the trust necessitates updates for clear asset distribution.
  • Buying or selling significant assets like real estate or a business may require modifying the trust.
  • Receiving a substantial windfall could mean it’s time to review your estate plans.
  • Moving to another state may need adjustments to comply with new state laws.

Even without significant events, review your trust every 2-3 years. Ensure it reflects your wishes and that trustees are still willing and able to serve. Regularly align your assets with your trust to maximize its probate-avoidance benefits.

Steps to Update a Revocable Living Trust

To update your California living trust, first review the existing document. Identify the provisions you want to change. Follow any amendment procedures outlined in the trust. Usually that entails amending the trust through a separate written document signed by the settlor and delivered to the trustee (who are usually the same person). This document must be created and executed like the original trust, generally before a notary. It should clearly state the desired changes.

Restating the entire trust may be better than piecemeal amendments for substantial or multiple changes. A restatement rewrites the whole trust instrument to integrate modifications while maintaining the original trust’s validity.

Legal Requirements for Trust Amendments in California

In California, trust amendments must meet specific legal requirements to be valid. The California Probate Code does not always mandate notarization, but having an amendment witnessed, signed, and notarized helps establish its legitimacy and reduces the risk of challenges. Amendments to revocable living trusts can usually be executed by the grantor per procedures outlined in the original trust document. If no process is specified, California law allows modifying the trust through a separate written instrument signed by the grantor and delivered to the trustee during the grantor’s lifetime.

Irrevocable trusts are more complicated to amend, generally requiring the unanimous consent of all beneficiaries and court approval. Amendments to irrevocable trusts are allowed to correct ambiguities, align with tax law changes, or adjust for unanticipated circumstances that impair trust administration.  You should consult with a lawyer if you have an irrevocable trust you would like to amend.

The Bottom Line

Major life events like marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and significant asset changes should prompt you to update your California living trust. Even without major changes, revisit your trust every few years. Confirm it aligns with your goals and that trustees can fulfill their roles.

Trusts can be updated by amending specific provisions or restating the entire document. Follow any amendment procedures outlined in your original trust. Ensure changes are correctly signed, witnessed, and notarized to comply with the law. An outdated trust can lead to unintended consequences and legal challenges. Keep your living trust current to maintain control over your legacy and secure your loved ones’ future. Take action today to update your California living trust – your future self and beneficiaries will thank you!

Guideway offers expert help setting up, funding, and updating your California living trust. Their experienced team can guide you through each step, from initial preparation to ongoing maintenance.

We are not attorneys. We only provide self-help services at your direction. Guideway Legal Document & Mediation Services is not a law firm and cannot represent customers, select legal forms, or give legal or tax advice. Services are provided at customers’ requests and are not a substitute for advice of a lawyer. Because legal needs vary, seek the advice of trained professionals if you have questions about selecting appropriate forms. Prices do not include court costs.