Balistreri v. BalistreriAnnotate this Case
Mary and Sal were married and had a daughter. Sal also had children from prior marriages. In 2006, Mary and Sal created a trust; each amendment to that trust was notarized. In 2017, they revoked the trust and created a new trust, which provided that upon Sal’s death, the property “shall be distributed equally among” his children. The trust mandates that “[a]ny amendment, revocation, or termination . . . shall be made by written instrument signed, with signature acknowledged by a notary public, by the trustor(s) making the revocation, amendment, or termination, and delivered to the trustee.” Mary alleged that in 2020, Sal executed a “First Amendment,” striking the provision that distributed the property amongst the children; it is not notarized. Sal died the next day.
The probate court deemed the alleged amendment “null and void,” concluding it was invalid under Probate Code section 154021 because the trust mandated that any amendment be acknowledged by a notary public. The court of appeal affirmed. When a trust specifies a method of amendment — regardless of whether the method of amendment is exclusive or permissive, and regardless of whether the trust provides for identical or different methods of amendment and revocation — section 15402 provides no basis for validating an amendment that was not executed in compliance with that method.