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What is California's Uniform Trust Decanting Act?

Your mother named you the executor of her estate. She had a detailed estate plan when she died. However, she hadn't gotten around to updating her plan to take into account some issues that arose after the plan was put in place.

For example, your brother has developed a serious drug problem. You're concerned that he'll use the many thousands of dollars she left him in a trust to buy drugs and further harm himself.

Can you go against the wishes she detailed and do what you're confident she would have wanted? Here in California, thanks to a new law, you can take steps to do that.

The Uniform Trust Decanting Act was passed by the California Senate and approved by Gov. Brown just last month. The law changes the California Probate Code to allow fiduciaries to "decant" irrevocable trusts -- modify the terms -- "without the consent of the beneficiaries or approval of the court, subject to certain exceptions."

The new law allows executors and others placed in charge of an estate to amend portions of the plan in light of changed circumstances that the deceased didn't anticipate to reflect what would have been that person's wishes.

This kind of situation highlights why it's important to review your estate plan regularly and make changes as necessary. However, many people don't do that for a variety of reasons.

If you believe that a loved one's estate plan needs to be "decanted," it's essential to talk with an experienced California estate planning attorney. They can advise you about whether this move would be appropriate given your specific circumstances, and if so, guide you through the process to carry out the wishes of your loved one.

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