DC Trust Modification and Termination

Explore the complexities of DC Trust Modification and Termination with Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC. Our expert guide covers legal processes, options, and how we can assist in your estate planning needs.


Can a Trust Be Modified or Terminated? 

When it comes to estate planning, the decisions one makes can have long-lasting implications for both the individual and their beneficiaries. In the District of Columbia, navigating the complexities of trust modification and termination requires a keen understanding of local laws and regulations.

This article sheds light on the critical legal considerations and procedures for DC residents looking to modify or terminate their existing trusts. Whether you’re reassessing your estate strategy or facing significant life changes that necessitate an update to your plans, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you make informed decisions about your trust arrangements.

Overview of DC Trust Modification and Termination

There are several different kinds of trusts. The most common trusts individuals are familiar with probably include revocable and irrevocable living trusts. While a revocable trust can be changed once created, you cannot change or revoke an irrevocable living trust. Although that is generally true, in the District of Columbia, interested parties may be able to modify or terminate an irrevocable trust in certain circumstances.

However, there is a procedure that has to be followed for modifying the trust. An estate planning attorney may be able to help with it. An attorney can also advise on whether a trust termination may be a better option than modification.

Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, can be your trusted partner in Washington, DC, ready to unravel the intricacies of trust modification and termination and guide you through the journey of proper estate planning. 

Understanding Trusts in DC

A trust is a legal document created to hold and manage different types of assets, including real estate. The trust is created by the grantor, also called the settlor in DC. The settlor sets out the terms of the trust and decides who the trust beneficiaries will be and which trust assets they will receive. The trustee, on the other hand, is responsible for administering the trust and abiding by the terms of the trust.

Types of Trusts and Their Characteristics

There are two main types of trusts in DC: testamentary trusts and free-standing trusts. Testamentary trusts are created through a settlor’s last will and testament and funded after the settlor’s death.

Free-standing trusts are created and typically funded during a settlor’s lifetime. Free-standing trusts may be revocable or irrevocable. In other words, with the revocable trust, the settlor can retain the right to modify, amend, or revoke the trust entirely. With an irrevocable trust, the settlor typically gives up all authority over the trust.

There are other types of trust, including:

  • Charitable remainder trust

  • Special needs trust

  • Life insurance trust

  • Spendthrift trusts

Every trust has its benefits as well as a definitive purpose of the trust. Some types of trusts have higher costs and complexities, while others may be less complex. For example, the rules governing special needs trusts can be hard to understand. That’s why having a special needs planning attorney by your side can be beneficial.

Legal Framework Governing Trusts in DC

The DC Uniform Trust Code provisions in Title 19, Subchapter IV provide specific guidance for different types of trusts. For instance, the District of Columbia’s trust laws require trust to be created in a specific manner to be valid. Moreover, the purpose of a trust must be lawful and possible to achieve, and it can’t be contrary to public policy. The terms of the trust must be for the benefit of its beneficiaries.

Furthermore, the law also states how a trust can be modified and when, how, or if a trust can be terminated.

Trust Modification in DC

Generally, the DC law allows a trust to be modified in the following circumstances:

  • If the purpose of the trust becomes contrary to public policy, impossible to achieve, or unlawful

  • If no material purpose of the trust remains to be achieved

Reasons for Modifying a Trust

The trust can be modified or terminated:

  • If the settlor and all of the trust beneficiaries consent to trust modifications

  • Because of the unanticipated circumstances

Legal Process for Trust Modification

Modifying a trust requires the filing of a complaint with the Probate Division of the Superior Court, as well as acquiring consent from all of the qualified beneficiaries.

Suppose all of the trust income beneficiaries don’t consent to a proposed modification of the trust. In that case, the court may still approve the modification if the interests of a beneficiary who doesn’t consent will be adequately protected.

Trust Termination in DC

When and if a trust can be terminated can, in some cases, depend on why the trust was created. For example, a trust created to provide for the care of one or more than one animal terminates upon the death of that animal or animals.

Grounds for Trust Termination

The trust terminates if it expires under trust terms. Also, just like with modification, a trust can be terminated if there is no purpose left to be achieved, the trust’s purposes have become unlawful, impossible to achieve, or contrary to public policy.

Furthermore, all the beneficiaries have to consent to trust termination. On the contrary, termination can still be achieved with the court’s approval, providing the interests of a beneficiary who doesn’t consent are adequately protected.

The trustee may also terminate the trust if the value of the trust property is insufficient to justify the administration cost.

Steps Involved in Trust Termination

Terminating a trust also involves filing a complaint with the Probate Division of the Superior Court.

Under DC Uniform Law, upon termination of a trust, the trustee will have to distribute the trust property according to the trust terms.

Need More Help? Reach Out to Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC!

Although irrevocable trusts typically can’t be changed, the DC Uniform Trust Code may allow these trusts to be modified in some instances. However, specific legal requirements have to be met.

With a seasoned estate planning lawyer like Kevin C. Martin, you can ensure that your trust-related decisions are made on solid legal ground, tailored to your specific circumstances. His extensive experience in DC trust law provides a valuable resource for anyone facing the challenging landscape of estate planning.

Trustworthy legal assistance may be beneficial with trust modification and termination issues. Contact us today and schedule a free consultation so we can further discuss your needs.