Understanding Decanting a Trust: A Comprehensive Guide

At the Mulinazzi Law Office, we pride ourselves in keeping up with the latest estate planning laws and regulations and decanting a trust is one of those new emerging areas.

Decanting a trust has developed into a vital estate planning concept, offering flexibility and control to trustees and beneficiaries. Whether you’re just beginning your estate planning journey or looking to update an existing trust, understanding the nuances of decanting can ensure your wishes are effectively carried out. In this guide, we’ll explore what decanting a trust entails, recent updates in the field, and key considerations to keep in mind.

What is Decanting a Trust?

Previous to the new decanting laws, an existing irrevocable trust could rarely be modified and never without court intervention.  With new regulations in place, assets can now be transfered from an existing trust (the original trust) to a new trust with different terms via a process called decanting. Decanting can address various issues, such as outdated provisions, beneficiary needs, or changes in tax laws. It allows for modification without the need to terminate the original trust or seek court approval, making it a powerful tool for trustees.

Recent Updates in Decanting Laws

Trust decanting laws vary by state, and recent updates have expanded the flexibility and applicability of this tool. Here are some notable changes:

Expanded Trustee Powers

Many states have updated their statutes to grant trustees broader powers to decant a trust. This includes the ability to modify terms related to:

– Beneficiary distributions

– Trustee appointments

– Investment strategies

Protection for Beneficiaries

Recent legislative changes have introduced more robust protections for beneficiaries. These include requirements for:

– Notifying beneficiaries before decanting

– Ensuring decanting does not adversely affect beneficiary interests

– Maintaining fiduciary duties throughout the process

Tax Considerations

Tax implications play a crucial role in decanting decisions. Updates in tax law have clarified how decanting affects:

– Gift and estate taxes

– Generation-skipping transfer taxes

– Income taxes

Trustees must stay informed about these changes to avoid unintended tax consequences.

Key Considerations When Decanting a Trust

Decanting a trust requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some essential factors to keep in mind:

State Laws and Statutes

Ensure you understand your state’s decanting laws, as they dictate the scope and limitations of the process. Consulting with an estate planning attorney at Mulinazzi Law Office can provide clarity and guidance.

Trust Terms and Provisions

Review the original trust document to determine if decanting is permissible and under what conditions. Some trusts explicitly prohibit decanting or outline specific requirements.

Beneficiary Interests

Consider how decanting will impact the beneficiaries. It’s crucial to balance the flexibility of the new trust with the original intent of the grantor. Open communication with beneficiaries can help manage expectations and address concerns.

Tax Implications

Assess the tax consequences of decanting, including potential benefits and drawbacks. Consulting with a tax advisor can help navigate complex tax regulations and ensure compliance.

Fiduciary Duties

Trustees must uphold their fiduciary duties throughout the decanting process. This includes acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, maintaining transparency, and avoiding conflicts of interest.

Steps to Decant a Trust

Here’s a step-by-step guide to decanting a trust:

Step 1: Review the Trust Document

Examine the terms of the original trust to ensure decanting is allowed and identify any specific provisions that must be followed.

Step 2: Consult with Professionals

Engage an estate planning attorney from Mulinazzi Law Office and a tax advisor to understand the legal and tax implications of decanting. Their expertise can guide you through the process and help avoid pitfalls.

Step 3: Notify Beneficiaries

Provide written notice to all beneficiaries, outlining the reasons for decanting and how it will impact them. This transparency builds trust and mitigates potential disputes.

Step 4: Draft the New Trust

Work with your attorney to draft the new trust document. Ensure it addresses the issues identified in the original trust and aligns with your current estate planning goals.

Step 5: Transfer Assets

Transfer the assets from the original trust to the new trust. Ensure all legal and administrative steps are completed accurately to avoid complications.

Step 6: Maintain Records

Keep detailed records of the decanting process, including all communications, documents, and decisions. This documentation can be invaluable in the event of future disputes or audits.


Decanting a trust offers a flexible and effective way to update and optimize your estate plan. By understanding the latest legal developments and carefully considering the implications, trustees can make informed decisions that align with their fiduciary duties and the best interests of the beneficiaries. If you’re considering decanting a trust, consult with experienced professionals at Mulinazzi Law Office to navigate the complexities and ensure a smooth transition.

For more information and personalized assistance, feel free to contact Mulinazzi Law Office. We’re here to help you secure your family’s future with confidence.