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Can a Successor Trustee Change My Trust?

As an estate planning lawyer in Folsom, I am often asked by clients whether or not their successor trustee can change the substance of their trust. The authority of a successor trustee to make changes to a trust depends on the specific language and terms outlined in the trust document. Generally, a successor trustee has the responsibility to manage and administer the trust according to the instructions provided by the grantor (the person who created the trust). However, the extent to which a successor trustee can make changes is typically limited to actions explicitly allowed by the trust document or applicable law.

Here are some points to consider:

  1. Terms of the Trust Document:
    • The trust document itself dictates the powers and authority granted to the successor trustee. Some trusts provide broad discretion to the successor trustee, while others may limit their authority in certain ways.
  2. Irrevocable vs. Revocable Trusts:
    • If the trust is irrevocable, changes to the trust may be more limited. Irrevocable trusts are often designed to be unchangeable or can only be modified under specific circumstances. Revocable trusts, on the other hand, may allow the successor trustee more flexibility. However, even revocable trusts may be quite restricted in the authority given to successor trustees to modify the trust itself. 
  3. Grantor’s Intent:
    • The successor trustee is generally obligated to carry out the grantor’s intent as expressed in the trust document. Changing the terms of the trust should align with the grantor’s wishes and the purposes for which the trust was established. 
    • This is a common area where trusts are permitted to be amended by a successor trustee. Namely, if the trust is amended to more fully carry out the grantor’s intent, the amendment will generally be permitted. 
  4. Court Approval:
    • In some cases, changes to a trust may require court approval, especially if the changes are significant or if the trust is irrevocable. The successor trustee may need to petition the court for approval before making alterations.
  5. Beneficiary Consents:
    • Depending on the terms of the trust, changes may require the consent of the beneficiaries. Some trusts explicitly require unanimous or majority consent for certain modifications.
  6. Applicable Laws:
    • State laws may impose restrictions on the powers of a successor trustee and the types of changes they can make to a trust. It’s important to be aware of and comply with the legal requirements in the jurisdiction where the trust is administered.
  7. Professional Guidance:
    • It’s advisable for the successor trustee to seek legal advice before making any significant changes to a trust. Legal professionals can provide guidance on the limits of the trustee’s authority and the proper procedures to follow.


While a successor trustee may have some discretion, they must act within the boundaries set by the trust document and applicable laws. Any modifications to a trust should be approached with care, ensuring that they align with the grantor’s intent and comply with legal requirements. If you have any other questions about whether a successor trustee can change your trust, or if you are seeking the guidance of an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message

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