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Under what circumstances is a trust revocable?

People in Washington who take steps in trust planning might not be entirely certain of the law when it comes to a "revocable" trust or an "irrevocable" trust. For those who are making their estate plans based on the trust and its status as revocable or irrevocable, it is imperative to understand what the law says about these matters. A trust must explicitly state that it is revocable. If it does not, then it cannot be revoked or amended.

With a revocable trust that is created by more than a single trustor, and except in cases when the trust says otherwise, the trust can be revoked by a spouse or domestic partner and can be amended by joint action of both spouses or both domestic partners if it only consists of community property. If it has property other than community property, the trustors can revoke or amend it based on the trustor's contribution to it. The character of separate property and community property will not be affected by it being transferred to a revocable trust. Once the trust has been revoked or amended by any less than all trustors, the trustee is required to inform all other trustors of these decisions.

A revocable trust can be both revoked and amended by the trustor if there is substantial compliance via a method that was detailed in the trust's terms. Without this method or a method that was expressly made exclusive, it can be done by a will or codicil that specifies items in the trust that would have passed based on the trust, or by a written instrument that the trustor signed stating there was an intent to amend or revoke the trust. Once the trust is revoked, the trustee is required to deliver the trust property as directed by the trustor.

When a trust is created, the trustor has certain goals in mind. However, these goals might change as time passes. Those who are thinking about trust planning and how irrevocable and revocable trusts work should make sure they have legal advice for the process from beginning to end, as the law can be somewhat confusing on these matters.

Source:, "RCW 11.103.030 -- Revocation or amendment," accessed on Nov. 28, 2017

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