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Can an Irrevocable Trust Be Changed?

Things to Consider if You're Stuck With an Irrevocable Trust

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By its design an Irrevocable Trust is just that, irrevocable, and so as a basic rule an Irrevocable Trust can't be amended, modified, changed, or revoked. But with that said, here are some things to consider if you think that you're stuck with the terms of an Irrevocable Trust.

Trustee or Beneficiary Modification or Judicial Modification.

Some Irrevocable Trusts are written with instructions to the Trustees or beneficiaries to allow for the terms of the trust to be modified under specific limited circumstances. For example, Charitable Trusts usually contain provisions to allow modification of the trust agreement to comply with changes in federal law. This can be done by a document signed the Trustee and beneficiaries or by a court proceeding seeking judicial modification of the trust. In addition, if circumstances have changed that make the administration of an Irrevocable Trust expensive or out of date, then the Trustee and/or trust beneficiaries can request that the terms of the trust be modified or that the trust be completely terminated through a judicial modification.

Trust Protector Modification.

Modern estate plans make use of a "Trust Protector," who is an independent third party appointed by the Trustee, the trust beneficiaries, or a court. If the Irrevocable Trust contains provisions allowing for the appointment of a Trust Protector, then one can be hired to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the desired change to the Irrevocable Trust agreement and then make a determination as to whether or not the change should be made. If the Trust Protector recommends that a change be made to the Irrevocable Trust, then the Trust Protector will either be able to sign the applicable documents making the change, or seek court approval of the change.

Exercise of a Power of Appointment.

If the Trustees or beneficiaries of the Irrevocable Trust have been given a lifetime or testamentary "Power of Appointment," then the terms of the trust can be changed for the benefit of the current or future beneficiaries upon exercise of the power.

Disposition of Trust Property.

While it won't change the terms of an Irrevocable Trust, the sale or other disposition of all of the property owned by an Irrevocable Trust can cause the trust to be terminated. For example, if an Irrevocable Trust owns a life insurance policy and the insured stops paying the premiums, then the insurance policy will either immediately or eventually lapse and the Irrevocable Trust will be empty.
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