Can we change our revocable trust without an attorney?

Here is a question posed recently on avvo.com.  My answer was chosen as “Best Answer” by the questioner.

Question:  How can my parents change their revocable trust without an attorney?  My parents reside in Wisconsin and have a revocable trust with 3 of 8 children designated to administer the trust.  If they wish to delete 1 of the 3 or replace 1 of them, would they need to go through an attorney?

Answer: It’s probably best to use an attorney to create an amendment to the trust – it shouldn’t be expensive at all if they are making simple changes like altering the named successor trustees.

To do it themselves, they would make a new document, entitled “First [or second, or third] Amendment to the John and Jane Doe Trust”, identify themselves, identify the trust, cite and quote the language in the trust granting them the right to modify, cite the section being modified, include the newly re-written section, and sign and notarize the document with all the formalities necessary for a trust in their state. Then they should create a Certificate of Trust as appropriate in their state.

As you can see, it requires a certain familiarity with trust drafting. Considering the amount of money at issue in a trust, it’s well worth your parent’s money to spend $100 to $300 to have a professional do the work for them.

- Daniel K. Printz, Esq.

Steve Fromm, Esq., then noted: The prior attorney is right on point here. You do not want to jeopardize the validity of a trust by trying to undertake this task without a lawyer. The costs here are minimal versus the things that could go wrong.  (Thanks, Steve!)