Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

How Much Does It Cost to Amend a Trust?

A settlor estimating how much it will cost to make changes to a trust.

Amending your trust can take multiple steps. You will first need to have a clear understanding of your trust, as well as the legal, statutory and financial factors that could weigh on the costs of making these changes. Here’s a general breakdown. If you need help with this process, consider working with a financial advisor.

Requirements to Modify a Trust

A trust is a legal arrangement through which a person (known as the settlor) can transfer assets to a trustee who manages and holds them for the benefit of specified individuals or entities (known as the beneficiaries). The terms for this arrangement are outlined in the trust document. If your situation changes, and you need to make amendments to the trust, here are some things to consider, starting with the requirements.

Understanding Basic Trust Amendment Eligibility

The first step is determining the settlor’s eligibility to make these changes. Legal capacity is the bedrock of this eligibility, implying that the settlor must be sound of mind and not under any legal disability, such as being a minor or mentally incapacitated.

Furthermore, the original trust document should explicitly permit amendments, often including clauses with specific conditions for changes, such as beneficiary consent or legislative changes. Consulting with a legal professional to review the trust’s terms could help you confirm that the intended changes are permissible.

Types of Trusts and Amendment Restrictions

The type of trust you have determines your ability to amend that trust. Revocable trusts, for example, give you the flexibility to modify terms or even dissolve the trust during your lifetime. On the other hand, irrevocable trusts stand firm once established, primarily to achieve specific goals like tax benefits or asset protection from creditors. But even these types of trusts can have exceptions.

Amendments could sometimes be made with the consent of beneficiaries or court approval. Understanding the limits of your trust will be key to making changes.

Legal and Statutory Considerations

All amendments must be made in compliance with the law. State laws and statutory requirements are the framework within which trust amendments operate. For example, here are some common legal procedures to keep in mind:

  • All amendments must be documented in writing.
  • The written amendments need to be notarized.
  • In certain cases, amendments require a court’s ratification or the consent of beneficiaries.

These requirements are not just bureaucratic hurdles; they safeguard the interests of everyone involved and uphold the trust’s original purpose.

How Much It Costs to Modify a Trust

A woman making changes to a trust.

You may need to modify a trust based on various factors, including legislative changes, significant shifts in personal circumstances or evolving tax laws. Here are two potential costs to consider:

  • Simple amendments, like changing a beneficiary or trustee, can range between $300 to $500.
  • More substantial changes, such as a complete restatement of the trust to reflect significant alterations, could exceed $2,000.

The restatement of a trust involves a complete overhaul of the legal document to bring it up to date with current laws and personal circumstances, without establishing a new trust.

The cost can vary depending on your location and the level of changes that need to be made.

Factors That Impact How Much It Costs to Amend a Trust

Here are five common factors that could impact how much it will cost you to modify your trust:

  1. Number of changes you need: The scope of amendments you’re trying to make is a direct determinant of the cost of amending a trust. The more changes there are, the higher the legal fees, as each amendment may need to be addressed individually. An attorney could charge a specific fee per amendment, which may vary significantly based on the complexity of each change.
  2. Date of original trust documents: The age of the original trust documents holds substantial weight in the cost considerations for amendments. Outdated documents may no longer align with current laws and could require more substantial revisions and legal counsel time. Changes in taxation laws, amendments to trust-related statutes, or obsolete administrative provisions typically warrant a meticulous examination of the trust, which can prolong the process and, consequently, increase costs.
  3. Type of trust you’re amending: The nature of the trust in question is a pivotal factor affecting amendment costs. Amending a revocable trust, which tends to be more flexible, usually incurs lower costs when compared with more complex and rigid structure of an irrevocable trust. The latter may require judicial involvement or consent from beneficiaries, which can drive up expenses. Furthermore, specialized trusts, such as charitable or special needs trusts, may require specific legal expertise due to their unique conditions.
  4. Complexity of changes: Simple amendments, such as updating the personal details of beneficiaries or trustees, are less costly due to their straightforward nature. On the other hand, complex amendments that involve significant alterations to the distribution of assets or modifications to the trust’s terms require in-depth legal analysis and drafting. Such complexities often lead to increased attorney hours and possibly court filings, all contributing to a higher cost.
  5. Additional common factors: Ancillary factors like where you are located can also impact your overall expenses. Attorney fees, for example, can vary from one region to another, with urban areas typically costing more than rural ones. Trust amendments may also require other services, including a notary, tax advisor consultations and asset appraisals – each carrying their own costs.

Regularly reviewing your trust documents and staying informed about the latest legal changes can help mitigate some of these expenses.

Bottom Line

A settlor reviews amendments made to his trust.

Amending your trust can be complex and costly, depending on several factors. These will depend on the type of trust, the extent and nature of the changes and the legal requirements of the jurisdiction. Expenses associated with trust modifications can be substantial, but necessary to ensure that the trust reflects the current wishes and circumstances of the settlor. While traditional legal services may entail higher costs, online legal tools could also offer economic alternatives for simpler amendments.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you create an estate plan for your specific needs and goals. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Before you start your estate plan on your own, make sure you understand the potential dangers of DIY estate planning in general.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © punna