revocable trust after death

Can a Revocable Trust Be Changed After the Grantor Dies?

Creating a revocable living trust is a crucial step in estate planning. The trust allows you to protect your assets from probate after your death, while still allowing you to access and manage them during your lifetime. However, understanding what happens to a revocable trust when the grantor dies can help you plan for your family’s future. 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 at any point during their lifetime. Only the grantor (the creator of the trust) can add or remove assets from the trust. 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. However, the trustee does not have the same control over the trust as the grantor.

What Happens to a Revocable Trust After the Grantor Dies?

A revocable living trust becomes irrevocable immediately upon the death of the grantor. That means that after you’re gone, no one can revoke any assets held in your trust, or add new ones. No one can make any changes to your beneficiary designations, either. The trust’s terms are simply set in stone once the grantor dies. 

If any major events occur during your lifetime, such as the birth of a child or grandchild, divorce, or marriage, you must amend the revocable trust as soon as possible. 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 Living Trust After the Grantor’s Death?

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

When Can a Revocable Trust Be Changed After the Grantor Dies in Arizona?

In 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. 

However, according to Arizona law, the court may only approve the modification if all of the beneficiaries consent to the change. The modification must also be 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 joint revocable living trust, then the trust does not become irrevocable until after the death of both spouses. When one spouse dies, the other can continue to make changes to the trust, and even modify it to become irrevocable. However, the trust does not automatically become irrevocable until both grantors pass away. So 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

Next webinar
starting soon
Free Webinar