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By: Scott Grossman on October 14th, 2016

Trust Contains a Mistake? Consider a Trust Reformation

While it is the hope of most parties that a trust administration will proceed smoothly, this is unfortunately not always the case. There are times where the interested parties suspect a trust contains a mistake or that part of the trust instrument is inaccurate. California courts will generally uphold the provisions of a trust strictly in order to protect the intentions of the creator of the trust. However, if the trust contains inaccuracies, interested parties do have options. One such option may be a trust reformation.

I suspect a trust contains a mistake. What is Trust Reformation?

It is where the probate court completely rewrites the terms of a trust. The following are highlights:

  • A trust reformation only applies to an irrevocable trust. Trusts can either be irrevocable from the outset or they become irrevocable after the settlor of a revocable trust passes away.
  • A court typically grants a trust reformation when a petitioner proves that there is an inaccuracy in the trust instrument caused by either mistake or fraud.
  • The petitioner may use evidence taken from outside the trust in order to prove the inaccuracy.
  • After a trust is reformed, it is treated as if it were written that way from the beginning.

The assistance of an experienced attorney is crucial for trust reformation action because it requires a demonstration of mistake or fraud.  The petitioner will need to provide compelling evidence that justifies a re-writing of the trust. Courts are reluctant to do this out of fear that they may change the settlor’s intent. Pursuing a trust reformation is not the only recourse available to the interested parties of a trust.


If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.