revocable trust after death


Can a Revocable Trust Be Changed After the Grantor Dies?

Understanding what happens to a revocable trust after the grantor’s death can help you plan for your family’s future. At Phelps LaClair, we help Arizona residents create and manage many types of trusts. If you’re considering adding a revocable trust to your estate plan, continue reading to learn what happens to the trust after your death. 

What Is a Revocable Trust?

A revocable or “living trust” is a type of trust that the grantor can change during their lifetime. That means the grantor (the creator of the trust) can add or remove assets from the trust at any time. As with other types of trusts, the grantor leaves instructions for how the successor trustee should manage its assets and how to transfer them to the beneficiaries after the grantor dies or becomes incapacitated

What Happens to a Revocable Trust After the Death of the Grantor?

After the death of the grantor, a revocable trust becomes irrevocable. That means that any assets within the trust at the time of death cannot be revoked, nor can any assets be added. Nor can beneficiary designations be changed in any way. The trust’s terms are simply set in stone once the grantor dies. 

It is essential that you amend a revocable trust along with any major life events such as the birth of a child or grandchild, and divorces or marriages. Keeping your living trust up to date ensures that no one gets left out, and that the assets you wish to protect are all accounted for after your death. 

When creating a trust, it’s also a good idea to name contingent beneficiaries. These backup beneficiaries will receive the assets instead if the primary beneficiary dies or disclaims the inheritance. 

Can a Successor Trustee Change a Revocable Trust?

Because the successor trustee takes over managing the trust after the grantor dies, it’s easy to assume that they have the power to make changes. However, no one can change a revocable trust once the grantor dies and it becomes irrevocable. The successor trustee is legally required to follow the grantor’s instructions for administering the trust

Can a Revocable Trust Be Changed at All After the Grantor’s Death in Arizona?

Going to Court

Although the successor trustee cannot make changes to a revocable trust on their own, that doesn’t mean a revocable trust can never be changed. After the grantor’s death, the successor trustee or a beneficiary can propose to modify the trust in court. 

According to Arizona law, the court may only approve the modification if all of the beneficiaries consent to the change, as long as the modification is consistent with the intended purpose of the trust. This exception only applies to noncharitable irrevocable trusts—it does not apply to charitable remainder trusts or charitable lead trusts

After a Spouse Dies

If you and your spouse are both grantors of a trust, the trust does not become irrevocable until after the death of both spouses. Although you can modify the trust to make it irrevocable after one spouse’s death, it does not automatically become irrevocable until both grantors pass away. You can continue to amend a joint revocable trust throughout your lifetime, even if your spouse passes away. 

Create or Amend a Revocable Trust in Arizona

If you would like to create a revocable living trust or amend your current one, consult the experienced estate planning attorneys at Phelps LaClair. We can help you keep your trust up to date with regular review appointments. We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about creating or amending your revocable living trust. Call us at 480-892-2488 today to schedule a consultation. 



Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (6/29/2022). Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash

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