There's a buyer's remorse problem going on right now in spades, says Jonathan Rikoon, a partner with Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Rikoon says he has been in the business for nearly 30 years, and he's seen cycles come and go, and clients sometimes call up and say they fear they've made a mistake. Now is one of those times.

"In the up cycles, the mistakes are that the kids are going to be too rich," Rikoon says. "In down times, the problem is that they gave away too much. That's harder to fix."

There are two basic types of trusts for estate planning purposes, and both are usually irrevocable. One holds an insurance policy-either life or term-so that when the parents die, the children can use the policy to pay their estate tax bill. The second holds other assets, like real estate or stock. By setting up a trust, the client creates a new column in their assets that is considered untouchable.

But now people are wondering if they can get the money back. The answer is yes and no, says Jeffrey Asher, partner at Pryor Cashman LLP in New York City. A trust is an entity that stands outside their estate, in a separate column on their tax return. Some trusts have their own tax identification number and may have filed their own income tax returns. As a result, they have a separate existence. To all of a sudden unwind that trust might draw scrutiny from the tax authorities, Asher says.

Says Asher: "Clients come to us and say, 'Can't we just cancel the trust?' The client knows what they can and cannot do, but they sometimes forget, especially in a market like this. They'll say, 'Even though you said I couldn't do it, does that really mean I can't?'"

There are actually several ways to access the money, depending on how the trust was set up. Some allow income to be distributed for very restrictive purposes, such as a child's education or an unexpected health issue. But clients want to push the envelope. Robert Lopardo, whose firm ATG Trust Co. in Chicago is a trustee for many of these irrevocable vehicles, says one of his clients had a farmhouse on a large tract of land, and she sought reimbursement for the construction of a fence all the way around the property, claiming it was for medical reasons. She furnished the firm with a physician's letter stating she was suffering from several medical conditions that required her to avoid strenuous exercise, and the fence would prevent her from having to chase her children should they wander off.

Another family recently asked for a distribution from the trust because they said their child, who was the ultimate beneficiary of the trust, had been accepted to a prestigious institution and the tuition needed to be paid immediately. What they didn't say was that the child had withdrawn from the school and they planned to pocket the tuition refund. The trustee found out only after asking for a copy of the child's grades, and the family couldn't provide it. "It's bad, and it's hard to stop, but it's more a function of human nature than the economy," Lopardo says.

Clients can also access their trust money by asking the trustee to make a distribution to their spouses.

Alternatively, they can ask the trust to lend them money-though it must be at a fair market rate. Lopardo says he's been called six times this year by clients who wanted to borrow from their trusts. He declined three of those times because the loans were prohibited by the terms of the vehicles. He did make two of the loans, however, and the sixth is still pending.

But borrowing from the trust can be problematic, advisors say. Smith of Larkin Hoffman says he received a call recently from a client who said he'd convinced his trustee to give him a loan of $20,000 to $30,000, and he was now unable to repay it. Problems arise when the "independent trustee" is a friend or relative of the grantor-the person who created the trust-because the trustee can feel torn. He may feel pressure to make the loan, but legally his fiduciary responsibility is to the beneficiaries of the trust, usually the grantor's children.