Can You Make Handwritten Changes to Your Trust?

According to Probate Code section 15402, it is possible to amend a trust according to the terms of the trust. If the terms of the trust are silent on the issue of an amendment, then the procedure set out in the  Probate Code section 15402 should be used.

Probate Code section 15402 stipulates that writing signed by a settlor and delivered to a trustee is required to amend a trust.   

What is settlor? 

A settlor is a person who makes or signs the trust. A settlor is also referred to as a trustor or grantor.

However, in most cases, the trust document itself provides a similar procedure for amendment, which is a writing signed by a trustor and delivered to a trustee. 

So, what is a “writing”?

It can be just about anything that is written, whether typed or hand-written. It works both ways, even if written on the back of an envelope. 

So should you just handwrite an amendment to your trust? 

Do you need to amend your trust? Let us help you do it the right way by signing up for a strategy session today.

Well, let me introduce you to a case that involved handwritten changes to a will and/or trust. In this case, a widow drafted several (seven to be exact) amendments done by an attorney, validly signed and notarized. 

However, a couple of days before she died, she made some handwritten changes to her trust. 

If you watch the video, you can see the actual handwritten changes to the documents. 

Then, she passed away. The handwritten amendment drastically changed what her beneficiaries were to receive. 

What do you think happened next? Did the beneficiaries concede the hundreds of thousands of dollars that they could have received? 

NO WAY. 

What are the issues with writing your own amendment? 

The largest issues were “Was this his/her handwriting?” 

How do we know she wrote or scratched out certain terms? For all we know, it could have been the person who benefitted from the change who wrote it after death? 

Second, how do we prove this in Court? 

Well, in this field we have handwriting experts. These experts can help determine who wrote a particular word or who signed a document. They can also help to settle questions about the time something was written down.

They are able to do this with methods such as ink dating and analysis and will tell you on a scale of zero to nine, how likely that is someone’s handwriting. 

So, that’s what we did,  we took the document to a document examiner. They gave us a 9/9 that this was indeed her handwriting. With this news, we thought everything was fine and there would be no problems ahead.

However, the other side also used the services of a different handwriting expert, and they came back with a 0/9 that it was her handwriting. 

We thought, how is this even possible? How do you have such a drastic change? 

In these types of cases, the winner is normally the expert that can convince the judge that they are correct. Do you want to leave your wishes in the hands of the handwriting experts? 

In addition, we had to prove that she wasn’t under duress when she signed it. Somebody could have abused this person to such an extent that she was forced to do something against her will in order to appease the perpetrator. 

To determine the “right” answer to these questions, we had to go to the probate court, even though this lady drafted a trust. 

What was the outcome in this case?

Over a half a million dollars used on attorney’s fees and we’re not even done with the case.

DON’T MAKE ANY HANDWRITTEN CHANGES TO YOUR TRUST. IT CAN BE EXTRAORDINARILY COSTLY. 

Do you need to amend your trust? Let us help you do it the right way by signing up for a strategy session today.