Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on November 8th, 2023

Can a Trustee Purchase Trust Property?

California Trust Property Purchase Rules

When purchasing trust property in California, there are specific rules and considerations that trustees need to be aware of. Understanding these rules is essential to ensure the purchase is legally valid and complies with California trust laws. In this article, we will explore the key regulations surrounding trustee purchases of trust property in California and provide a comprehensive guide for trustees.

What is a Trustee?

Before delving into the rules related to purchasing trust property in California, it is essential to understand the role of a trustee. A trustee is an individual or a group of individuals appointed to manage and administer a trust on behalf of the beneficiaries. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the beneficiaries’ best interests and manage the trust assets per the trust document’s terms and applicable laws.

Can a Trustee Purchase Trust Property?

One common question that arises is whether a trustee can purchase trust property. The answer is yes. A trustee can purchase trust property. However, only if the transaction follows the rules outlined in the California Probate Code and the terms of the trust itself. Trustees must adhere to specific guidelines and exercise caution to ensure that the purchase is transparent, fair, and in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries.

So, while a trustee can purchase trust property in California, it is a complex transaction that requires careful adherence to the trust’s governing document, local laws, and general principles of fiduciary duty. 

Trustees are considered the legal owners of all trust assets and have the right to manage them unilaterally without direction or input from the beneficiaries. That includes real estate. However, if the trust document mandates consultation with beneficiaries before property sales, the trustee must adhere to it. 

Proper documentation of the transaction, including the reasoning, the valuation, and compliance with all legal requirements, is vital. In conclusion, while it is legally possible for a trustee to buy property from the trust, it is a complex transaction fraught with potential legal and ethical pitfalls. 

Legal Requirements for a Trustee to Purchase Trust Property

Specific legal requirements must be met when a trustee wishes to purchase trust property. These requirements include:

  • Acting in the Best Interests of the Beneficiaries: The trustee must ensure that the purchase is advantageous to the beneficiaries and protects their interests. Any conflicts of interest must be disclosed and managed appropriately.
  • Obtaining Court Approval: In some cases, court approval may be required before a trustee can purchase trust property. That is especially true if the trust document explicitly prohibits self-dealing or if there is a potential conflict of interest.
  • Obtaining Consent from Beneficiaries: If the trust document does not require court approval, the trustee may still be required to obtain written consent from the beneficiaries before purchasing the trust property. This consent indicates that the beneficiaries are aware of the transaction and agree with it.
  • Fair Market Value: The trustee must ensure that the purchase price of the trust property is fair and reasonable. It is advisable to obtain a professional appraisal to determine the property’s fair market value.
  • Transparency and Documentation: Trustees must maintain accurate records and documentation of the purchase transaction. That includes obtaining and retaining all relevant information, such as appraisals, purchase agreements, and disclosures.
  • Compliance with Trust Terms: The trustee must follow the guidelines outlined in the trust document regarding purchasing trust property. That includes any provisions related to the sale or acquisition of assets.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with the rules and requirements for trustee purchases of trust property in California can have serious consequences. Non-compliance may lead to legal disputes, breach of fiduciary duty claims, and potential removal of the trustee. Trustees must seek legal guidance or consult with professionals experienced in trust law to ensure compliance and mitigate any risks associated with the purchase.

If you would like more information on your trustee’s duties and rights as a beneficiary, check out our article “20 ways your Trustee can be breaching their fiduciary duties” for a more comprehensive look at a trustee’s duties and limitations when dealing with trust assets. 

Additional Considerations

While the aforementioned legal requirements form the foundation for trustee purchases of trust property in California, there are additional considerations that trustees should keep in mind:

  • Professional Guidance: Trustees should seek legal advice or consult with professionals, such as attorneys and real estate agents, specializing in trust law and transactions. These professionals can provide invaluable guidance and ensure that the purchase is conducted in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
  • Trustee Compensation: Trustee compensation must be handled appropriately. Trustees should review the trust document for any provisions regarding compensation and follow those guidelines when considering their payment for services rendered during the purchase of trust property.
  • Asset Diversification: Trustees should evaluate the impact of the purchase on the overall diversification of trust assets. If the purchase results in an imbalance or concentration of assets, the trustee should consider the potential risks and benefits before proceeding with the transaction.

Additionally, while trustees in California can purchase trust property, they must adhere to specific rules and legal requirements. Acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries, obtaining necessary approvals and consents, ensuring fair market value, maintaining transparency and documentation, and complying with trust terms are all crucial aspects to consider. Seek professional guidance to navigate the complexities of trustee purchases, minimize risks, and effectively manage trust property transactions. By following these guidelines, trustees can help safeguard the interests of the beneficiaries and ensure a lawful and successful purchase of trust property in California.

More on your Trustee breaching their fiduciary duties.

Suppose you would still like more information on Trust Litigation. Or, ensure they are following their trustee’s duties or even removing a Trustee, check out our complete Overview of California Trust Litigation, available on our website. And if you have more questions about your rights as a Beneficiary and what you should know moving forward.

It’s best to reach out as soon as possible. The longer you take, the more damage your trust could take. Please call us at (888) 443-6590, and we would be more than happy to see if we can assist you.

If you are still having some trouble, have any more questions, or want to talk to someone about your case, please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form below.