Modifying Irrevocable Trusts: Changing the Unchangeable?

Navigating Modification Methods, Governing Law, Consent Requirements, and Tax Considerations

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926
Program Materials

This CLE webinar will provide estate planning counsel with techniques and best practices to modify an irrevocable trust. Our panel will describe the various modification methods, including decanting, construction, reformation, division and amendment; explain the applicability of state law; outline key tax considerations, and more.


An individual’s or family’s need to modify an irrevocable trust arises fairly often when hindsight reveals that an irrevocable trust is defective in some key aspect. This defect may be due to a change in circumstances, legislative changes such as ATRA, or an error in drafting.

There are several ways in which an irrevocable trust can be fixed. Decanting is only one option among many that may be used to correct a trust. Estate planning counsel must be proficient at recognizing which techniques may apply to a particular set of facts and then implementing those techniques.

Additionally, counsel must analyze the applicability of state law. The panel will provide attendees with a drill down into the Delaware Supreme Court’s Peierls decision on the family trust cases. The ruling offers substantive guidance regarding placement of trusts in that state. The panel will explain the advantages of changing a trust’s situs to Delaware to benefit from the various methods available for modifying an irrevocable trust.

Listen as our experienced panel reviews the key tools available to modify a trust and prepares estate planning counsel for determining state law applicability, notice and consent requirements, and tax considerations.



  1. Modification methods
    1. Judicial reformation
    2. Non-judicial reformation
    3. Division
    4. Amendment
    5. Decanting
    6. Other
  2. Identifying governing law
    1. State law applicable to validity, construction and administration
    2. Review of Delaware Peierls decision
  3. Identification of necessary parties
  4. Representation of parties
  5. Tax considerations
    1. Bosch rule
    2. Completed transaction rule


The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • What methods are available to modify an irrevocable trust?
  • Which state law will govern a trust modification?
  • How will the governing state law apply to the validity, construction or administration of the trust?
  • Who must be notified and give consent before a trust can be modified?
  • What tax consequences should counsel consider when modifying an irrevocable trust?


Feffer, Jaclyn
Jaclyn G. Feffer

Principal, Fiduciary Counsel
Bessemer Trust

Ms. Feffer assists high net worth individuals and families in developing and implementing generational wealth transfer...  |  Read More

Finkelstein, Meryl
Meryl G. Finkelstein

Brick & Patel

Ms. Finkelstein counsels clients on a wide variety of complex estate planning, business succession and wealth transfer...  |  Read More

DeJong, Lauren
Lauren Evans DeJong

Of Counsel
Stahl Cowen Crowley Addis

Ms. DeJong counsels individuals with regard to estate planning, estate and trust administration, asset protection...  |  Read More

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