Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many “Tweaks” Are Too Many?
If your life or the law has changed since you signed your will, trust or power of attorney, the really should be updated. Updates to the trust 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. Let’s chat about which is best for you.
Amendments vs. Restatements: Which Is Better?
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 trust. 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.
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
●     Allow for a history of changes if you keep all the documents together; or
●     Allow you to completely discard the old document (your choice there)
●     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.
Have Questions About Updating Your Trust? We Can Provide Answers
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.
Have questions? If you do, that’s normal. We can provide you with answers. Whatever your circumstances, rest assured that we can help you to determine the best way to update your trust.  Call us today and we’ll help make your instructions are up-to-date and crystal clear.
By the way, your power of attorney, while the law says is valid until revoked or death in South Dakota, may often be considered “stale” by a bank or other institution.  There is no “staleness doctrine” in South Dakota, but updating powers of attorney can help you tremendously in the event of a disability – that is when you need them.
Also, if you have a trust you probably have a will.  When you amended your trust did you update the will also?  It is very important to integrate these documents
Feel free to call or email with any questions about any part of your estate plan or your estate planning needs.
Doug Thesenvitz