Creators of trusts (also known as settlors or trustors) usually think long and hard about how their property should pass when they die. It’s therefore common for trustors, or their lawyers, to incorporate protective safeguards into their trust instruments to shield trustors from their own whim and indecision, and ensure nobody trifles with their wishes should they become vulnerable to undue influence. Among these safeguards are revocation procedures, which may require that a revocation document be signed by a particular person and/or delivered to the trustee.
The California Legislature has, however, codified its own “default” method of revocation, allowing – under Probate Code section 15401(a)(2) – a trust to be revoked by a writing signed by the trustor and delivered to the trustee during the trustor’s lifetime. But what happens when the trustor’s chosen revocation procedure is stricter than that permitted under section 15401(a)(2)? Must the trustor follow his chosen revocation procedure, or is he or she permitted to simply comply with the Legislature’s default method? In Cundall v. Mitchell-Clyde (2020) __ Cal.App.5th __, the Second District Court of Appeal held that for a trust’s revocation procedure to be the exclusive revocation method, it must expressly specify that it is the only such method. Continue Reading