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.
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.