Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

June 26, 2013
We changed our mind about our living trust. How do we revoke it?

Q: In 2008, my husband and I formed a Living Trust. Since then our family dynamics have changed considerably and we wish to revoke it with a Trust Revocation Declaration. There are forms on the internet with instructions to do this personally without the expense of an attorney. When this form is notarized, would it be completely legal and safe, or would hiring an attorney be the better way to obtain our goal? Thank you for your advice.

Sandra, Placerville

A: Under California law, a trust is revocable by the creator unless the terms of the trust state that it is not revocable. Assuming you have a standard Living Trust, then you and your husband can revoke it.

The next step is to determine how the trust can be revoked. If the trust terms provide for the method of revocation, then you should follow the directive in the trust. For example, most trusts contain a general provision that the trust may be revoked in writing, signed by the settlor (creator) and delivered to the trustee, who, in the case of a living trust, is generally the same person. If the trust states that the method of revocation is the "exclusive method of revocation," then you must follow that procedure.

I would never be able to assure you that completing a form from the internet and having it notarized would be completely legal and safe. There are other issues which could affect the validity of a revocation. For example, if there is family disharmony, someone could challenge the revocation on the grounds that one of the persons signing the revocation was not competent, or that it is not effective because it did not strictly comply with the terms of the trust governing revocation. None of these facts are raised in your question, but I just wanted to caution you that there is no guarantee that the validity of a certain document is above challenge.

You may want to consider having estate planning counsel do a quick review of your trust to determine if any deeds may need to be prepared and signed to transfer out of the trust any real property you may have transferred to it. The attorney could also address the question of how title to the property should be taken as the property is transferred out of the trust and back to you and your husband. These questions would also apply to any other assets to which you hold title as trustees.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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