Does our irrevocable trust become invalid if it contains the words "may be amended from time to time"?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 24, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Does our Irrevocable Trust become invalid if it contains the following language "may be amended from time to time"

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

The prudent lawyerly answer here would be that it's impossible to give a complete answer without being able to eyeball the entire trust document"”and possibly other related estate planning documents, too.

But throwing lawyerly prudence to the wind, it is possible to give some general advice and direction, and possibly debunk a few common trust myths in the process.

It is a bit unusual these days to have a truly irrevocable trust"”and most people welcome the opportunity to adjust the trust administration to meet their needs. But some trusts do take on that status because of the iron-clad way they were written, or because the trust creator dies. Most irrevocable trusts are also called "ongoing trusts" or "family trusts," and contrary to popular belief, in almost all cases even they can be amended or revoked. Often, such modifications can be easily accomplished.

Many trust documents, especially trusts created more recently, contain provisions that specify that a trust may be amended or terminated if appropriate to serve the needs intended, or sometimes, if all surviving trust beneficiaries agree to the change,

And even if the trust document does not specifically state how and when it can be changed, state law may permit a necessary modification or termination.

One big difference between revocable and irrevocable trusts is that the irrevocable ones can sometimes be set up to provide ingenious tax savings benefits.

The bottom line: If it is important to you that the trust is truly irrevocable"”which may be the case if a substantial amount of property is involved and the trust is intended to exist for a long time, then get a lawyer to look over it to make sure it does what you intend. If you hired a lawyer to set up the trust, he or she should be willing to provide this examination and assurance free.

Community Answers

Arr77 answered...

Thank you for this advice. It was established in 1992 and we have not made any amendments to it since that time. I will bring it to the original lawyer and have them review it.