Does the length of time a trust is to go on have to be written in the trust document itself or can the length of time be put in an amendment to the trust
It depends (ain't that a typical of a lawyer!):
- Trust - What does the trust document (agreement, indenture) say? Most have an express clause, or several provisions, dealing with when the trust is to end.
- Irrevocable - If the trust is irrevocable (cannot be changed) then the termination date should be in the trust document.
- Revocable - If the trust is revocable (can be changed or modified), e.g. the typical revocable living trust, you can modify it by changing the term at anytime before death so long as you are competent. This would be the "amendment" (or modification, or trustee action) that you refer to.
- Distributions - even though the term of a trust might be stated if the trustees distribute all assets out of the trust before then termination date the trust effectively has been terminated at an earlier date. This can be done in any trust if the distribution provisions permit.
- Rule Against Perpetuities - most states still have a law that limits the number of years of the trust to not more than some period of years provided by law (statute). If the trust is made to last longer, the rule against perpetuities would end it sooner, regardless of what the trust or any amendment might say.
So, the answer is it depends. For an issue this technical you should consult with a trust and estate attorney.