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Dear Stefanie:
My wife and I signed our trust about 10 years ago. We are leaving most of the assets to our children. However, we did leave a $50K gift to my cousin. About 5 years ago, we decided that we didn’t want to leave that gift, so we crossed it out in pen and initialed it. We also made other corrections directly on the trust. Is that OK?

-The Editor on Earlham

Dear Editor on Earlham:
I am glad that you are going through your old papers. I have seen this before. Folks want to make changes to their documents, so they do it themselves. People write changes in the margins, cross things out, change names and percentages of gifts.
It is generally bad practice to strike out particular provisions in your living trust by hand without getting legal advice. Often there are provisions in your trust stating just how the trust must be amended. For example, your trust might require a notary or two witnesses.
Unfortunately, hand written and informal changes come with a high risk of being challenged. Further, this might cause an argument between your kids and the cousin if s/he insists on the gift. Families already have enough reason to argue – let’s not add to it!
Generally, it is better not to write in the margins of your document or cross things out. You should see your estate attorney and have this done in accordance with the procedures laid out in the trust.

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