Your Guide to Selling a Property in a Revocable Trust

  • September 28, 2023
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When it comes to estate planning and managing assets, a revocable trust, often known as a revocable living trust, is a popular tool, especially for homeowners who wish to avoid the probate process and have specific terms for their property’s distribution after death. 

This guide will walk you through the key aspects of selling a property in such a trust.

Selling Property in a Revocable Trust

A revocable trust is a type of trust established by a grantor or settlor. The primary benefit is its flexibility. Unlike an irrevocable trust, the terms of a revocable trust can be modified or terminated by the grantor during their lifetime. This flexibility is crucial for homeowners, especially when adjusting beneficiaries or other conditions.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for homeowners looking to sell a house in a trust:

  • Verify the Trust Document: First, check the trust document. Ensure that you, as the trustee, can sell the property. It’s also wise to consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure all legalities are in place.
  • Hire a Real Estate Agent: Even if the real property is in a trust, the sale process is similar to selling any other property. Hiring a reputable real estate agent can guide you through market trends and fair market value pricing.
  • Notify Beneficiaries: Depending on the terms of the trust, you might need to inform beneficiaries about the planned sale.
  • Prepare the Property for Sale: Make sure the house looks its best. This can include repairs or simply cleaning and staging.
  • List the Property: Once the property is ready, the real estate agent can list it. Ensure the listing mentions the property’s status (i.e., it’s held in a revocable trust).
  • Complete the Sale: When a buyer is found, the title company will work with you to ensure the property is transferred out of the trust’s name correctly. Consider tax implications like capital gains tax and any exemption benefits.
  • Distribute the Funds: Any income from the sale is returned to the trust and then distributed based on the trust agreement.
  • Market Timing and External Factors: Deciding on the right time to sell is pivotal. The real estate market can be influenced by various external factors, making some periods more favorable for selling than others. 

Understanding the tax purposes behind selling a house in a trust is essential. For instance, there might be benefits like reduced capital gains tax if the property was a primary residence. But there could be income or inheritance tax considerations, especially if the property’s value has significantly appreciated. Always consult with professionals for specific legal advice.

Throughout the process, consider the fiduciary responsibility you hold. As the successor trustee, after the grantor’s death, you must act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Think thoroughly  If you’re unsure of the market conditions, is it the right time to sell a house? And if there’s a lien on the house, it’s crucial to address it before the sale.

Selling Property in a Revocable Trust vs Irrevocable Trust

Selling Property in a Revocable Trust vs Irrevocable Trust

An irrevocable trust differs from a revocable trust mainly because its terms cannot be easily changed once established. It offers more rigid asset protection. This might be a more appropriate option for homeowners in states like California and New York, considering Medicaid rules or state-specific estate tax. 

Selling a property in an irrevocable trust is more complicated. The grantor loses control over the property once it’s transferred, and only the beneficiaries or a named fiduciary can decide on its sale. 

While the decision-making process in an irrevocable trust is limited, it offers peace of mind through stable asset management. This ensures the grantor’s wishes are upheld posthumously without interference. 

Additionally, due to its rigid nature, it can act as a safeguard against potential legal disputes or external claims on the property, ensuring the intended beneficiaries receive their due without hurdles. This stability can be particularly crucial in volatile markets or in scenarios where potential family disputes might arise

For tax benefits, properties in an irrevocable trust typically offer better protection against estate tax than those in revocable trusts. However, the trust property’s sale can have tax implications, which need close examination.

Selling property held in either type of trust requires careful planning and consultation with experts, whether dealing with bank accounts, real estate, or other assets. Knowledge of the probate process, trust agreement details, IRS regulations, and state-specific laws, such as those in New York, can distinguish between a smooth sale and legal complications.

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    Selling in a Revocable Trust When You Are The Grantor

    When you are the grantor of a revocable trust, also known as a settlor, you retain control over its assets. This means you have the flexibility to sell or modify these assets, including real estate, at any time. Here’s what you need to know:

    • Review the Trust Document: Ensure that the trust document permits the sale of the property. While most revocable living trust documents allow the grantor full control, verifying any specific terms of the trust is essential.
    • Hire a Real Estate Agent: Engaging a real estate agent who understands the nuances of selling a property in a trust can be beneficial. They can provide insights into market dynamics and offer guidance on pricing the property at its fair market value.
    • Consider Tax Implications: Even if you’re selling a primary residence when held in a trust, certain tax implications might arise, such as capital gains tax. It’s crucial to consult with an estate planning attorney or a tax professional about potential tax benefits or liabilities.
    • Proceed with the Sale: Once you’ve made all the necessary preparations, you can list the property for sale. If there’s a lien on the house, it’s essential to address it before finalizing the sale.
    • Update the Trust: After the sale, ensure that the trust document reflects the changes, removing the house from the list of assets.

    When pondering the sale, if you need more certainty about the timing, this article may help you with the right time to sell a house.

    Selling an Inherited House In a Trust

    Inheriting a house is often accompanied by a mix of emotions. If this property is held in a trust, additional complexities come into play. Here’s a guide to help you navigate this process:

    • Determine Your Authority: Identify if you’re the successor trustee. After the grantor’s death, the successor trustee is typically responsible for managing the trust property. If you’re not the trustee, you’ll need their approval to proceed with the sale.
    • Consult the Trust Document: The trust agreement should provide clear directives about the disposition of the real property. Some might mandate the home sale, while others might give beneficiaries discretion.
    • Work with an Estate Planning Attorney: Given the legal intricacies, it’s beneficial to consult with an estate planning attorney familiar with the probate process and other legal procedures relevant to your state, whether in California, New York, or elsewhere.
    • Appraise the Property: Determine the fair market value of the home. If multiple beneficiaries are involved, this ensures transparency and fairness.
    • Hire a Real Estate Agent: Employing an agent familiar with selling inherited properties or homes in a trust can be advantageous. If you’re looking to expedite the process, companies like Leave The Key Homebuyers can be a valuable resource, especially if you want to sell your house fast in New York.
    • Consider Taxes: Inherited properties might be subject to inheritance, estate, or other tax implications depending on the state and the property’s appreciation.
    • Complete the Sale: Work with a title company to transfer ownership once a buyer is found. If selling in specific locales like Brooklyn, specialized services such as buying houses in Brooklyn can be considered.
    • Distribute Proceeds as Stipulated: The trust document might have specific instructions on how the sale proceeds will be divided among beneficiaries or used for other purposes.

    Dealing with an inherited property can be emotionally taxing. Make sure you lean on professionals, whether it’s for legal advice or to facilitate a smooth transaction.

    How To Sell Property Held in a Revocable Trust


    Selling a property held within a trust, whether as the grantor or an inheritor, is a layered process that demands meticulous attention to detail. It’s not just about making a sale; it’s about ensuring that the sale adheres to legal stipulations, benefits all involved parties, and makes sense from a financial standpoint. 

    Every step is pivotal, whether you’re navigating the intricacies of trust documents, understanding tax implications, or finding the right resources for a seamless sale. 

    Leveraging professional help, legal counsel, or real estate expertise can make a difference. Being informed and proactive can turn what might seem like a daunting endeavor into a straightforward, beneficial transaction. As always, in such significant financial and legal dealings, diligence and knowledge remain your best allies.
    Whether in New York or California, deciding to sell your house fast must always factor in the type of trust. For homeowners in New York, firms like Leave The Key Homebuyers offer solutions. Specifically, for Brooklyn residents, there are tailored solutions like we buy houses in Brooklyn that cater to the unique needs of selling a house in a trust.

    How To Sell Property Held in a Revocable Trust