Soefje v. Jones, 270 S.W.3d 617 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2008, no pet.).


Construction and Interpretation

Trust Amendment


Brother and Sister disputed the construction an amendment to Mother’s trust. Brother argued that the amendment only added to the property to which Sister was entitled under the original trust instrument but left the property to which he was entitled intact. On the other hand, Daughter claimed that the amendment revoked the entire property distribution provided for in the original trust causing property originally given to Brother to pass under the trust’s residuary clause permitting her to share in that property. The trial court agreed with Daughter and Brother appealed.

The appellate court reversed. The court began its analysis by recognizing that a trust amendment does not revoke a provision of the original trust “unless the words used in the amendment clearly show the [settlor’s] intent to revoke the trust.” Soefje at 629. The court studied the trust and the amendment and held as a matter of law that the instruments are unambiguous. The amendment merely added to Sister’s entitlement by giving her certain properties to which Brother was originally entitled under the original trust. The amendment did not act to revoke gifts of other property to Brother. The amendment expressly stated that the new terms “shall be added” to the trust; there was no language revoking other gifts not disposed of by the amendment.

Moral: Trust amendments need to be extremely clear to avoid later disputes. Prudent practice may be to restate completely the dispositive provisions rather than change them “bit-by-bit.”