When you are the grantor, also known as the trust creator or settlor, of a revocable living trust, you have the right to change the trust provisions as often as you see fit. The trustee is the person who manages the trust assets. In a revocable living trust, the grantor and the trustee are usually the same person. The grantor typically also names a successor trustee in the trust to manage and safeguard the trust assets if he is unable to perform his trustee duties or to take over managing the trust upon his death. You have the option of appointing one or more individuals or an institution, such as a bank or investment firm, as your trustee or successor trustee.
Review the original revocable living trust documents to determine how many grantors are on the trust. If there is a co-grantor, both of you must agree to appoint a new trustee. Find out how many trustees are listed on the trust. If you have named several successor trustees, decide if you want to change one or more of the trustees. Although you do not need permission from a trustee to remove him, you might want to speak with that person about the impending change.
Consider which person or institution you want to serve as the new trustee. Make sure the new trustee understands the responsibilities and duties of the position and agrees to serve in that capacity. If you amended the trust several times in the past, consider drafting a restatement of trust to incorporate the changes into one document. A new amendment must track the original trust document’s articles. For example, if the trustee is named in Article III, the amendment must also use Article III as the paragraph to appoint the new trustee.
Follow the trust instructions when drafting the amendment. Write the amendment so that it precisely states the legal name of the new trustee. Arrange to sign the document in front of witnesses and a notary public. Check your state’s statutes to determine how many witnesses are required to witness the amendment signing. Remind the witnesses that they must bring a valid photo ID with them so the notary can verify their identities. Be sure that all parties sign the amendment in front of the notary at the same time.
Retitle the trust assets in the name of the new trustee if you are not acting as the trustee. You will have to contact each asset holder and provide them with a copy of the amendment. Some financial institutions require that you present the original trust and the new amendment in person before retitling the assets. You can transfer automobile titles and real estate deeds yourself by following your state’s procedures.
- Your Last Will and Testament should clearly state which assets belong to the trust to avoid probate and potential disputes among your beneficiaries.
- Keep your revocable living trust, amendments and restatements in a safe place so your trustee can get to them when needed.
Based in St. Petersburg, Fla., Karen Rogers covers the financial markets for several online publications. She received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of South Florida.