Irrevocable Trust Nonjudicial Settlement Agreements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Some trusts are irrevocable as soon as they are created, which means that, in general, the trustmaker (the person who created and funded the trust) cannot terminate or modify it and take back the money or property that it holds. You may wonder why anyone would want an irrevocable trust, but irrevocable trusts can provide some very important benefits, particularly asset protection, tax minimization, and maintaining eligibility for government benefits. In contrast, trustmakers may amend or revoke a revocable living trust at any time prior to their death, but at their death the trust becomes irrevocable.
Although irrevocable trusts generally cannot be changed, many states’ laws allow interested parties to modify a trust in certain circumstances using a binding nonjudicial settlement agreement—assuming there is no language in the trust document prohibiting their use or providing another way for the trustee and beneficiaries to consent to modifications. In the absence of a statute permitting a nonjudicial settlement agreement, the interested parties under state law, which may include the grantor, the trustee, or the current or future beneficiaries or their representatives, would have to petition a court to modify the trust or interpret unclear provisions. In states where nonjudicial settlement agreements are permitted, their use can avoid the costs, delays, and lack of privacy associated with judicial proceedings.
When May a Nonjudicial Settlement Agreement Be Used?
A nonjudicial settlement agreement is only valid if it does not violate a material purpose of the trust or terminate the trust in an impermissible manner and any modification would have been approved by a court if the parties had petitioned the court. Although there are variations in each state’s statute governing nonjudicial settlements, there are […]