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How to resolve a dispute between 2 trustees - one wants to sell the house and the other refuses.

Hawthorne, CA |

As co-trustee with my sister as the other trustee, I want to sell my mom's house, but my sister wants to delay and hope that her son can afford to buy it in 6 months to one year. What can I do. Isn't that a breach of her fiduciary duties. How do I resolve the issue?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

The starting point is always the specific terms of the trust and what the duties of the trustees happen to be, and whether there is a clause covering the means to resolve disputes between trustees. If the trust itself is silent, then you will need to hire an attorney to petition for instructions compelling the trustees to do as you request. If the property is in Los Angeles, you should call my office: Thank you.
Robert Miller
3418 W. 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA
M - F, 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM


I agree with Attorney Miller's response. I would simply add two points:
1) You do not say whether or not either you or your sister are represented by counsel. If you are not, you should be. Given the apparent conflict, each of you should have a separate attorney.
2) It is possible that your sister's plan *would* be considered self-dealing. She has a duty of impartiality to the trust beneficiaries, which presumably are both of you, at this point.

I would get an attorney involved to make sure that you do not get taken advantage of.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.


To add to the above, consider the following when you talk to local counsel.

1. Are you and your sister going to be co-owners of the property when the trust is settled.

2. Her delay definitely sounds like self dealing to me. Who is supposed to pay the taxes and maintenance cost in the meantime.

Sounds to me like sister and son should buy out your share and then they can do what they want. They could get a discount because of no realtor fees and son could start paying on it to show he is interested. I do think it would unfortunately require a letter from a lawyer explaining why this is the way to go and the delay is not appropriate unless both agree. Hopefully, the housing market is rising where you are so even if this delay occurs, you won't be damaged.

If your sister really wants to do this but you do not agree, she should buy you out.

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