Revocable and irrevocable trust are terms that are usually applied to a personal trust – one that an individual would set up for estate planning purposes. Those terms are not applied to a qualified plan’s trust, such as the one that is established for a 401(k) plan or a profit sharing plan.

A qualified plan’s trust is similar to an irrevocable trust in that once contributions go into a qualified plan trust, those monies must remain in the trust until distributed to participants, or, for a defined benefit plan, sometimes upon plan termination, if there are surplus assets.

A qualified plan’s trust is similar to a revocable trust, though, in that the plan sponsor (sponsoring employer) and/or the document sponsor may amend the terms of the trust document. Participants (those who would be considered the beneficiaries of the trust) do not consent to the changes to the terms of the trust document.

A 401k participant recently needed to complete a bank form for his trust that asked him whether the trust was revocable or irrevocable. I was able to confirm with the bank that “N/A” was acceptable since these terms didn’t apply based on the explanation above.

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