The basic steps involved in revoking a revocable trust are fairly simple and include the transfer of assets and an official document of dissolution.

A revocable trust is a flexible legal entity/financial structure that allows the individual who creates it, known as the grantor, to change, remove or alter the trust assets— or, in fact, amend the trust itself or its beneficiaries—at any point during his or her lifetime. Also often referred to as a living trust, a revocable trust is often used to transfer assets to heirs while avoiding the time and expenses associated with probate—which they often would incur if assets were simply bequeathed to them in a will. During the life of the trust, income earned is distributed to the grantor, and only after death does its property transfer to the beneficiaries.

Key Takeaways

  • Revocable trusts, as their name implies, can be altered or completely revoked at any time by their grantor—the person who established them.
  • The first step in dissolving a revocable trust is to remove all the assets that have been transferred into it.
  • The second step is to fill out a formal revocation form, stating the grantor's desire to dissolve the trust.
  • The official revocation declaration must be signed by the grantor, notarized, and, in some cases, filed with a local probate or estates court.

Reasons for Revoking a Trust

People might revoke a trust for any number of motives. Usually, it involves a life change. One of the most common reasons for revoking a trust, for example, is a divorce, if the trust was created as a joint document with one's soon-to-be ex-spouse.

A trust might also be revoked simply in the event that the grantor wishes to make changes that are so extensive that it would be easier to dissolve the trust and create a new one than to try to alter it. A revocable trust may also be revoked if the grantor wants to appoint a new trustee or change the provisions of the trust completely.

Although they avoid probate, revocable trusts are not exempt from estate taxes; since the grantor retains control of them during his or her lifetime, the assets are considered part of the taxable estate.

How to Revoke a Trust

The first step in dissolving a revocable trust is to remove all the assets that have been transferred into it. This procedure involves changing titles, deeds, or other legal documents to transfer ownership from the asset of trust back to the trust's grantor.

The second step in revoking the trust is to have a legal document created that states the trust's creator, having the right to revoke the trust, indeed wishes to revoke all terms and conditions of the trust and dissolve it completely. Such documents, often called a “trust revocation declaration” or “revocation of living trust," can be downloaded from legal websites; local probate courts may also provide copies of them.

However, it's often advisable to have a trust and estates lawyer draw one up for you, or at least review the one you have, to make sure it is correctly worded and meets all the qualifications of your state's laws. Also, if the trust has a variety of assets, it is often easier to let a qualified attorney make sure everything has been properly transferred out of it.

The dissolution document should, at minimum, be signed and dated by the trust's creator, with a notary public acting as a witness. If the trust being dissolved was registered with a particular court, the dissolution document should be filed with the same court. Otherwise, you can simply attach it to your trust papers and store it with your will or new trust documents.