Len and Rosie: Does mom's trust need to be updated because of name change?
Len and Rosie

Len and Rosie: Does mom's trust need to be updated because of name change?

Tillem & McNichol

Len Tillem and Rosie McNichol

Dear Len and Rosie,

My parents have a revocable living trust. My father has passed away. Since then I have gone through a divorce and have had my maiden name reinstated.

I believe we are OK with my father’s passing but the trust was written in my married name.

Do we need to have my name changed on the trust, and if so what is the easiest, quickest and of course most economical way of doing this?

I also think it is time for me to do a trust. I am not married and have no children. Again is there a quick and easy (and cheap) way to do this?


Dear Mary,

Don’t worry so much about your parents’ trust, at least with respect to your name.

There is no legal reason why your mother’s estate planning documents should be changed just because your name is different from what it used to be.

It would be quite the racket if estate planning attorneys could charge parents up to a thousand dollars every time a daughter changes her name.

If your mother decides to amend her trust for some other reason, then she may as well have your name changed while she’s doing it. Otherwise, she can save a few bucks and leave it alone.

However, if your mother did not review her trust with an attorney after your father’s death, she should do so now.

It’s important to make sure that everything is in order before she passes.

For example, your mother’s home and accounts may or may not actually be in the trust the way that they should be.

If she hasn’t done so, she should also review the beneficiary designations on any life insurance policies or retirement accounts.

If she were to pass away and had no designated beneficiaries, then it may be necessary to probate your mother’s estate in the courts, instead of collecting assets with a certificate of death and a form.

Do you need to create an estate plan now? Maybe not.

Probate is required in California only when an estate is worth $150,000 or more—and the value of automobiles registered with the DMV, mobile homes registered with the Department of Housing and any accounts with designated beneficiaries.

After your mother’s death, you may very well need a trust. Until then, it’s probably sufficient to have a Durable Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, and a simple will.

If you do an Internet search for “California Statutory Will Form” a free form written by the California Legislature will pop right up.

Len and Rosie

Len Tillem and Rosie McNichol are elder law attorneys. Contact them at 846 Broadway, Sonoma, CA 95476, by phone at 707-996-4505.

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