Can a successor trustee change a trust? As a general rule, no, at least in the state of New York. Only the trustor, while living, can make changes, and only if the trust is revocable. And even then, the trust becomes irrevocable once the trustor dies. Typically, no changes can be made to an irrevocable trust, except to fulfill, implement, and execute the provisions of the trust instrument.
There is a possible way to make changes to an irrevocable trust, but that kind of a scenario would require a written consent of all beneficiaries, trustees and grantors, and is therefore mostly non-practiable.
A trust is an agreement where the trustor (also called a settlor or grantor) transfers legal title of his properties to the trustee, who then holds and manages such properties for the benefit of (a) beneficiary/ies. Generally, the trustor, trustee, and beneficiary are one person when a trust is initially established. When the trustor dies, the trust instrument normally provides for the names of the beneficiaries and/or the successor trustee, or in the alternative, a method for selection of the successor trustee.
There are exceptions, however. When the original trustee, who happens to be the trustor/settlor/grantor, has made changes or amendments to the trust, the successor trustee can have these amendments voided if proven that such amendments were made under undue influence, fraud, coercion, or duress. In this case, the trust instrument will be reverted back to its original version.
When the provisions of the trust instrument allow the successor trustee to make changes to the trust, the successor trustee can make changes, for as long as it is in accordance with the explicit and implied wishes of the trustor.
The duties and powers of a successor trustee really depends upon the extent of authority given to him in the trust instrument. If you are a beneficiary, you are entitled to a copy of the trust instrument. Immediately ask for a copy from your trustee in order to be knowledgeable of the provisions of your trust. Here, you will know the conditions, if any, that need to be fulfilled in order to receive a distribution, the timing of the distributions, whether distributions would include income only or principal, or whether withdrawals can be made.
If you would like to find out can a successor trustee change a trust, or find that the successor trustee has been self-dealing or has amended the terms of a trust, please consult a New York estates lawyer immediately in order to protect and preserve your rights. We, at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin, are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.