Amendments to revocable trust must follow procedure specified in trust instrument to exclusion of statutory method
Dissents appear in published opinions of the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District about as frequently as meteors crash to Earth. King v. Lynch (filed April 10. 2012) 2012 DJDAR 4516) is such a cosmic event. The court majority affirmed the trial court's invalidating amendments to a trust, even though those amendments comply with the revocation method established in Probate Code section 15401, subdivision (a) (2). The majority found the trust specified a modification method, and thus, under section 15402 the trust could only be amended in that manner.
The trust in question provided that, during the joint life of the two settlors, who were also the initial trustees, the trust "may be amended" by a writing signed by both settlors and delivered to the trustee. Nowhere does the instrument explicitly state this is the exclusive method of amendment.
After one of the settlors, Edna, suffered a severe brain injury, leaving her incompetent, an amendment to the trust was executed by her co-settlor, Zoel. That amendment stated that because Edna could no longer serve, Zoel was appointed as sole trustee. Two further amendments were executed by Zoel changing monetary bequests to the settlors' beneficiaries. These three amendments are the subject of the challenge in this case. The trial court found all three of these amendments invalid, and was affirmed on appeal.