Q: Can my husband & I make changes to our living trust without using a lawyer, if our signatures are notarized? Thank you.
A: Although you and your husband can make changes to your trust, it is important to review the changes with an attorney to make sure that there are no unintended consequences, and to make sure that the changes are done in a manner that makes them legally effective and not likely to cause confusion or litigation among beneficiaries if you pass away or become incapacitated. It is a good idea to have your estate planning documents reviewed every few years to make sure that the they still reflect your current needs as well as changes in the law. Also, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to make sure that your trust is funded appropriately.
A: Not knowing the terms of your trust and its specific requirements in relation to amendments, I can answer the question generally --- a living trust generally in amended in writing signed by the trust creators, with such signatures notarized. However, I caution everyone when attempting to make changes without counsel. I have seen many errors (some outcome determinative) made by people over the years who have attempted to amend on their own. There are factors that may affect your outcome (which you may not even be aware of) regarding the law and its effects on your estate and its beneficiaries.
A: Yes. You can legally amend your trust without hiring a lawyer. If you are making a simple amendment, like changing a successor trustee, you are probably fine doing the amendment yourself. If you are doing something more complicated like changing beneficiaries or arrangements for succession of a business or real property, you should probably consult an attorney. I’ve seen people try to save a few hundred dollars by going it alone, and inadvertently cause more costly problems down the road. Up to you though. Good luck.
A: You can do whatever you would like, but I cannot say if the language you use will be legally accurate or enforceable. Here's why: There are plain English words that have legal meanings. For example, the word "issue" in plain English means an important topic for debate or discussion. But, in legalese, the word "issue" means children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so forth down the line. So, a sentence may have one meaning to you, but will have a completely different meaning when implemented by a trustee, or interpreted by a judge. So, the legal definition will be used to determine the actual meaning of the sentence. As a result, if you make changes to anything other than someone's address or a few other very minor wording, I would say you are better off having a lawyer draft it IF you want to be sure the language says, from a legal standpoint, exactly what you want it to say. Sorry about that! But much of our legal language comes from England and existed before the United States was a country. So, if we use a different word, rather than the word that's been used for hundreds of years, a judge will assume we meant something different than what the law says that word means. It may sound like a ploy to get business, but there is a method to our madness. Best wishes!
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