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By: Scott Grossman on October 16th, 2023

What Are The Common Mistakes Trustees Make When Selling Trust Property?

Being a trustee is a challenging task. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to act in the beneficiaries’ best interests and administer the trust according to its terms. When selling trust property, trustees must exercise caution and avoid common mistakes that can jeopardize their role and potentially harm the beneficiaries.

Common Mistakes Trustees Make When Selling Trust Property

  • Lack of Proper Planning and Research

One of the most common mistakes trustees make when selling trust property is a lack of proper planning and research. Trustees must understand the market conditions, property valuation, and potential buyers before putting the property on the market. Without adequate planning, trustees might sell the property below its fair market value or face difficulties finding suitable buyers.

  • Failure to Obtain Professional Advice

Trustees must seek professional advice when selling trust property. That includes consulting with real estate agents, attorneys, and financial advisors who can guide the sale’s legal, economic, and tax implications. Neglecting to obtain professional advice can result in costly mistakes and potential legal consequences for the trustee.

  • Ignoring the Terms of the Trust

Trustees must always abide by the terms of the trust when selling trust property. They need to review the trust document carefully to determine if there are any specific provisions or restrictions regarding the sale of assets. Adherence to the trust’s requirements can lead to disputes among beneficiaries. It may even result in legal action against the trustee.

  • Inadequate Communication with Beneficiaries

Open and transparent communication with beneficiaries is essential for trustees. Not informing beneficiaries about the sale of trust property can breed suspicion and mistrust. Trustees should provide regular updates, explain the reasons for the sale, and address any concerns or questions from beneficiaries. Trustees can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts by fostering clear and honest communication.

  • Rushing the Sale Process

Rushing the sale process is another common mistake made by trustees. Selling trust property requires careful consideration and attention to detail. Trustees must take the time to market the property correctly, evaluate offers, and negotiate terms. Rushing the process can lead to poor decision-making and result in a less favorable outcome for the beneficiaries.

  • Conflicts of Interest

Trustees must always act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and avoid conflicts of interest. Disclosing personal or financial relationships that may compromise the trustee’s impartiality is crucial. Trustees should prioritize the beneficiaries’ welfare above personal gain or relationships when selling trust property.

  • Failure to Consider Tax Implications

Selling trust property can have significant tax implications. Trustees must be aware of potential capital gains taxes, property transfer taxes, and other tax obligations arising from the sale. Seeking advice from tax professionals can help trustees navigate the complex tax landscape and ensure compliance with applicable laws.

  • Neglecting Property Maintenance and Repairs

Trustees must maintain trust property in good condition. Failing to address necessary repairs or neglecting routine maintenance can diminish the property’s value and make it less desirable to potential buyers. Trustees should regularly assess and handle any maintenance or repair needs to ensure the property is in its best possible condition.

  • Failure to Evaluate Alternatives

Additionally, before selling trust property, trustees should thoroughly evaluate alternatives. Other options may be available, such as leasing the property or exploring exchanges or partnerships to better serve the beneficiaries’ interests. By considering all available alternatives, trustees can make informed decisions and ensure the optimal outcome for the trust.

  • Insufficient Documentation

Also, proper documentation is crucial when selling trust property. Trustees must maintain accurate records of all transactions, offers, and negotiations. Insufficient documentation can lead to misunderstandings, disputes, or allegations of impropriety. For this reason, trustees should keep a detailed paper trail to demonstrate the transparency and integrity of the sales process.

What are the consequences of not having all trust documents up-to-date before selling trust property?

Not having all trust documents up-to-date before selling trust property can affect you in eight ways.

Suppose a trustee does not have all trust documents up-to-date before selling trust property. In this case, it can lead to various consequences, including:

  1. Revocation of the trust: If a trustee loses the trust documents and cannot find a copy, they will need to revoke the lost trust and create a new one to replace the old one.
  2. Delay in the property sale: If the trustee does not have the proper trust real estate sales forms, it can lead to delays and replacement of incorrect documents.
  3. Legal challenges from beneficiaries: If the trustee does not conduct a proper inventory of the property, it can lead to legal challenges from beneficiaries.
  4. Liability for damages: For instance, if the trustee does not secure all trust assets as soon as possible, it can lead to loss or damage of trust property, and the trustee may be liable for damages.
  5. Legal challenges from beneficiaries: If the trustee commingles trust funds with personal assets, it can lead to legal challenges from beneficiaries.
  6. Legal challenges from beneficiaries: If the trustee sells trust assets and keeps profits for themselves, it can lead to legal challenges from beneficiaries.
  7. Legal challenges from beneficiaries: If the trustee sells trust property to themselves, it is considered a form of self-dealing and can lead to legal challenges from beneficiaries.
  8. Legal challenges from beneficiaries: If the trustee overcharges the trust for legitimate third-party services, it can lead to legal challenges from beneficiaries.

Generally, not having all trust documents up-to-date before selling trust property can lead to various consequences. That includes revocation of the trust, delay in the sale of the property, legal challenges from beneficiaries, liability for damages, and legal challenges from beneficiaries due to commingling trust funds with personal assets, selling trust assets, and keeping profits for themselves, trust of sale property to themselves, and overcharging the trust for legitimate third-party services.

More on your Trustee breaching their fiduciary duties

If you would still like more information on Trust Litigation. Or, removing a Trustee, check out our complete Overview of California Trust Litigation, available on our website. If you have more questions about your rights as a Beneficiary and what you should know moving forward.

To learn more about the nuances of trust property, check out the following articles listed below.  

The Challenges of “Selling a House as a Trustee” and abiding by the fiduciary duty. “Can a Trustee Sell Trust Property Without Beneficiaries’ Approval?” “What Does Putting Property in a Trust Mean?” “Is a Trust the Best Option for Your Property?

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