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Trust Restatement, or Trust Amendment?

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Trust Restatement

You want to amend your revocable living trust. Your lawyer has told you that you need a trust restatement. What’s the difference, and which should you prefer?

The basic rule

A trust restatement is really just the ultimate amendment. Assuming that you retained the authority to amend your trust, you can amend it by completely replacing the language. In other words, something like: “I hereby amend my trust by deleting all of its terms and replacing them with this entirely new document.”

Notice that we prefaced this by saying that you retained the power to amend your trust. Why would you have created a trust without retaining the power to amend it? There are several reasons, but an unamendable trust (while the original signer is still living) is uncommon.

Of course, you might not have been the one to sign the trust. In that case it might not be as clear that you have the ability to amend — or restate — the trust. Look at the document, and talk to your attorney.

Why a trust restatement?

Assuming that restating the trust is an option, why should you exercise it? The primary reason: to keep from having to deal with financial firms, MVD, the County Recorder or other entities.

When you established your trust, you should have gone through the process of “funding” it. That generally means that most assets should have been retitled to the trust’s name. If you were to create a whole new trust, you would have to repeat that work, and run the risk of failing as to some assets. The trust restatement lets you have a whole new trust document without having to go back through the trust funding process.

Of course, you could just amend your trust. But it quickly becomes hard to keep track of provisions. You could annotate a copy of the original trust showing where revisions have been made. But you still have to keep all the documents together and organized. Plus you risk the possibility that someone will misplace a key provision, or that an amendment might refer to the wrong section. Our general rule at Fleming & Curti, PLC: once you’ve made one or two amendments to a trust, the next change should probably be a restatement.

Does it cost more to restate a trust?

Usually, yes. But not always, and not always a lot more. And even when it does, the small additional cost will help keep the trust’s integrity clear.

Another benefit to restatement of older trusts: as the law of trusts evolves, practitioners see new ways to improve flexibility and meet your goals. A restatement allows us to update the entire document, rather than just making a single change. But yes, that does come with some additional cost.

We see a lot of clients’ documents ten, or fifteen, or even thirty years after they were originally signed. It’s rare to see all of the documents in place, unmarked and pristine. If we can get a single document that contains the entire trust, that increases the likelihood that it will stay intact. So that’s another benefit of restating a trust rather than amending it.

Can someone else restate your trust (or can you restate someone else’s trust)?

Maybe. We have written before about trust decanting. In Arizona, at least, a decanting is often accomplished by a document called a trust restatement.

For maximum flexibility, you might give someone the specific authority to restate your trust. That might be someone called a trust protector, or a special trustee. In some cases, it might even make sense to give your successor trustee the authority to restate your trust. Let’s talk about your circumstances.

Who gets a copy of your trust restatement?

What a great question. OK — we know we asked it ourselves. But still….

Say your original trust was called the “Panorama Trust Dated June 27, 2006.” On July 3, 2021, you restated the trust. What’s it’s new name? The Panorama Trust Dated June 27, 2006. No one at the bank, or the brokerage house, or the County Recorder’s office, needs to know about the update, any more than they would if you had just changed one paragraph by an amendment.

Of course, the changes might include a change in trustee(s). That does need to be conveyed to the appropriate organizations. But we do that by preparing a new Certification of Trust, and circulating that document. It might (or might not) refer to the restatement.

Not in Arizona?

Sorry. We know Arizona law, but we’re not conversant in the law of other states. Oh, of course we know a thing or two about a few other states. After all, we write a weekly newsletter that reports on cases from all over the country. But our knowledge about non-Arizona legal issues is, as they say, a mile wide and a micron deep. Talk to your local attorney.

We hope this helped. We want to try to make these difficult concepts more approachable. Let us know if you think we nailed it — or not. We’ll try to answer your reasonable questions about trust restatements.

2 Responses

  1. If I write a restatement of a Living Trust Amendment dated 8/7/1998 (original Living Trust dated 12/1/1994) and the restatement was drafted and written by a new attorney, do I need to convey to the original attorney that wrote the Living Trust in 1994 and amendment in 1998 about the restatement and the changes that seriously affect the 1994 and 1998 amendment? This is California Estate Law question.

    1. Paul:

      We don’t know California law, so you might want to check with the lawyer who drafted your new trust restatement. But generally speaking, you aren’t required to keep your former attorneys updated on your later decisions. Of course, we (attorneys) would like to know when you’ve moved on, and so it’s a nice thing to do to let your former attorney know. But it’s probably not necessary.

      Good luck!

      Fleming & Curti, PLC
      Tucson, Arizona

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.