Does a residence listed in a Trust have to be sold at market value or can it be sold for a reasonable amount if the sibling agree to it?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Does a residence listed in a Trust have to be sold at market value or can it be sold for a reasonable amount if the sibling agree to it?

I moved in to take care of my mother. After her passing, it was discussed by myself and four other siblings that I would be able to buy them out. We all agreed to an amount and it was settled, however, later one sibling decided that we would walk away with more money if we sold for full market value. After running the numbers he would still walk away with the same amount if he’s lucky maybe a little more. There are 2 trustees, both and the other sibling have agreed with me. We want to know if the home has to be sold for full market value or is there any way that we can proceed without the one greedy sibling consent. Can we ask a judge to force his hand to sell since he is out numbered and over ruled by the trustees.

Asked on August 8, 2017 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) The trustees can decide what to do with the trust property and do not need judicial approval in advance to sell. If this sibling wishes, he could bring a legal action to try to stop the sale, in which case the court will decide whether it was proper, but the onus is on him to go to the trouble and cost of suing--not on the trustees, to initially seek approval.
2) The trustees obligation(s) are to a) follow the terms of the trust; (b) obey the law (do nothing illegal); and (c) act in the reasonable best interest of the trust beneficiaries. We will assume they would be doing (a) and (b), so the issue is (c): is this in the beneficiaries' interest? If this beneficiary is getting more or less the same amount he'd get if the home were sold on at market value, given that a sale to a third party could involve more costs (e.g. a realtor commission) and take more time (so the home has to be "carried" for longer, incurring tax, mortgage, maintenance, insurance, etc. costs), so that even if there were a higher purchase price, it could net out to the same amount, the trustees have done their job and their should be no grounds for this beneficiary to bring a viable legal action.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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