How To Sell A House in a Trust in California: A Complete Guide

Putting real estate in a trust can deliver many advantages for grantors and beneficiaries alike, not least from a tax perspective. However, selling a house in a trust in California can be quite challenging, especially if you’ve never encountered the process before.

Before selling a house in a trust in California, you must acknowledge the unique aspects of California law that affect the process and establish a clear strategy to enjoy a streamlined process that delivers the best outcomes for all parties. This guide on how to sell a house in a trust will help you understand the legal considerations surrounding the closing process and teach you how to handle the selling process in style.

a house being sold in a trust in california

Understanding Trusts and Real Estate in California

Before looking at how to sell properties held in California trusts, you must first understand the trusts in real estate fundamentals. 

In essence, a trust property is an asset that has been placed into a trust. It is affected by fiduciary duty and will be managed by the named trustees following the grantor’s death. Trustees will be tasked with managing assets as per the grantor’s wishes which are detailed in the trust’s legal documents. 

There are many reasons why people use a trust in real estate management aspects of their tax planning procedures. For starters, the grantor retains control of their estate until their death by making themself a trustee. More importantly, a trust agreement is the perfect financial tool to distribute proceeds efficiently to the intended beneficiaries.

In other words, the trust provisions protect beneficiaries and prevent potential disputes. Furthermore, it can help the family reduce various tax obligations including both inheritance tax and capital gains tax, as well as potential state taxes when selling a home in California. With many trust types, it also means avoiding probate court and the related financial impacts.  This ultimately serves the best interests of the grantor, trustees, and beneficiaries. 

While only 33% of Americans have suitable estate planning in place, California trusts may cover various types. The most frequently used solutions are;

  • Revocable trust – in a revocable trust, the trust creator retains legal ownership of all assets. This does have tax implications throughout their life, as well as for beneficiaries, but the grantor is able to change the terms of the agreement. For example, they could name a new grandchild as a future beneficiary.

  • Irrevocable trust – in this type of trust agreement, legal ownership of assets is passed to the trustees. Thai reduces the taxable portion of the person’s estate, which leads to tax benefits. However, irrevocable trusts cannot be altered, meaning beneficiaries can’t be added or removed. 

  • Living trust – in a living trust, assets may be transferred during the trust creator’s lifetime. This allows for careful asset management that can be used to support beneficiaries through ideas like paying for their college education without giving them control of the assets or income generated from them.

  • Testamentary trust – in this type of trust, assets are distributed as per the instructions held within the grantor’s last will and testament. In this case, the trust is not established until after the grantor’s death while it also does not avoid probate court in the way that the above trusts do. 

It should also be noted that when a minor is named as a beneficiary, the trust will hold assets (or the proceeds from them) until they turn 18. 

guide to selling your hosue in a trust

Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Your House in a Trust in California

While the benefits of putting a property in a trust are clear, selling real estate in a trust can be a little testing. Therefore, careful planning is required to sell assets efficiently and promote a smooth closing process that allows your family to enjoy the tax advantages and full proceeds of the sale. 

If you want to sell an inherited property in a trust or just need to sell a property in a trust you didn’t create, there are options.  The process of selling a house in a trust may seem daunting, but the following steps should lead you to a successful sale.

Gain trustee approval

Trustee approval will make the process of selling trust property far less stressful as it’ll help you avoid disputes and delays caused by miscommunication. While single trustees are possible, most trusts name multiple people. If you have three or more people, ensuring that all parties are on the same page should be the first item on your checklist.

It is an emotionally charged time in which past disputes between relatives could make this process difficult. However, Premier Property Buyers can help by facilitating clear communication by all parties. Arranging a consultation to discuss everything from fiduciary duties to estate taxes and the options for selling a house should lead to an agreement. When all trustees feel suitably informed and prepared for the process ahead, things should fall into place.

Understand different trust implications

As well as gaining the necessary approvals from each trustee, you must consider how trust home sales are impacted by the type of trust that the asset is placed in:

Revocable trust

As the grantor retains control, another trustee cannot sell the property until after the grantor passes. When selling a property in this manner, the trustee or trustees must satisfy the grantor’s intentions as per the latest version of the trust document.

Irrevocable trust

The terms of how funds should be distributed are already finalized. This may even set out the method of how the trust property should be sold, although not always. Crucially, the payouts to beneficiaries are predetermined. 

Testamentary trust

The trust provisions will set out the conditions, such as all beneficiaries (or guardians of minors) having to agree on a sale. As long as a trustee approval agreement is made, home sales can occur in any method. 

Prepare the home for sale

Preparing for trust sales of real estate assets may look a little different depending on which route you take. In either scenario, though, you will have to obtain the necessary legal documents. The relevant info when selling trust property in California is detailed below. 

When opting for real estate agents, you will need to consider the necessary repairs before it can be listed on the property market. If the repairs are significant, it may be better to look at the prospect of a cash sale. Aside from saving time and hassle, this is often the best option from a financial perspective in this situation.

Contact a real estate agent or experts

When selling real estate in a trust, you will also need to call an expert. A real estate agent will help with marketing the property if this route is taken. However, you can also sell trust property assets through a cash home buyer service, who can also take care of issues like using the right escrow company. While 350,000+ properties are sold in California from Long Beach to Anaheim annually, the direct route is often preferred in this situation. 

California requires careful planning, especially when you want to sell property effectively while serving the best interests of all relevant parties. Whichever route you take, it’s important to contact a team that will offer a professional appraisal and a transparent service.

legal way to sell a house in a trust in CA

Legal Requirements for Selling a Trust Property in California

The legal requirements for selling a trust property demand a lot of attention, especially as you will be inexperienced in this type of sale. You must ensure compliance with California’s legal authority if you want the sale to be finalized and beneficiaries to receive their sale proceeds. 

In California, the following legal documentation and compliance requirements must be addressed depending on the sale process used:

Selling With the Trustee

The legal requirements for selling a trust property are easier with a trustee than without. The property is sold to a third party with the funds being added to the overall trust, which can then be distributed as per the specific instructions of the trust document.

Most courts allow trustees to sell properties unless the trust states that the asset should not be sold. When selling with the trustee, you will need;

  • The trust document to confirm that you have the right to sell the property. A trust certification in California can also be handed to a third party who works in good faith that trustees are operating as per the trust agreement. 

  • The trust certification in California, signed by a trust attorney.

  • A California deed of trust, which is essentially the mortgage that must be cleared with the sales proceeds.

  • The grantor’s death certificate.

  • The trustee’s tax ID number.

As well as verified documents, you will need to work with an expert capable of providing professional guidance in reaching an agreement for all parties. The sale proceeds will then be added to the trust funds, which are distributed as per the trust instructions.

Selling Without the Trustee

Although a little complicated, selling without the trustee is an option available for California trust real estate sales, especially if the asset is intended for a single beneficiary. In this instance, you will need;

The trust documents to confirm that the legal title can be transferred.

Agreement from the trust, in writing.

A deed form from the trustee, which will then be filed to officially transfer the title.

Once this has been finalized, the beneficiary will be free to sell the asset with a real estate agent or direct cash home buyer. They can subsequently use the funds as desired, either for themselves or shared with others.

solutions for selling a house inherited in a trust

Challenges and Solutions When Selling

Many sellers experience challenges selling a house in a trust, and not only because of the legal challenges mentioned above. Here are some of the most common problems when selling a house in California that is a trust asset:

Beneficiary disagreements

Beneficiary disagreements are most likely with a testamentary trust but you could experience these or trustee disagreements at other times. Having an impartial agent speak with all parties to lay out the possible solutions should allow everyone to find their way back to the same page. 

Property valuation disagreements

Disputes on the property value are another potential issue, especially as potential buyers often want to negotiate offers through their real estate agent. A professional appraisal and valuation service allows you to determine the value. A quick house sale will give you a fair price based on this while also helping you avoid fees like marketing. 

Legal document issues

As stated above, it is imperative that you have all documents ranging from a death certificate to trust certification. Given the emotions and stress experienced at this time, mistakes can easily happen. Working closely with an experienced team who can use their experience and remove the emotional attachment is advised. 


Delays in property sales aren’t limited to selling a house in a trust. Potential buyers may be waiting on the sale of their properties. Similarly, California Civil Code 1102 means you have to disclose potential issues with the property while any repairs or curb appeal updates could hold you back further. A quick sale within seven days will remove those problems.

showing the easiest way to sell a house in a trust

Conclusion: Selling Trust Property with Premier Property Buyers

Selling property in a trust in California is a process that requires professional guidance if you wish to enjoy a streamlined process. From checking the necessary documentation to factoring in any special considerations, there are several steps involved as you look to achieve the best result for the named trust beneficiaries while simultaneously respecting the dearly departed’s wishes. 

However, you’ll also want a convenient process with a fair sales price. Frankly, selling property without the need for a real estate agent is the preferred solution as it allows you to draw a line under the process without waiting months for a sale or using open houses in an attempt to sell your house in a trust quickly.

For a better solution, it’s best to work closely with a local cash buyer like Premier Property Buyers. You are guaranteed a quick and convenient sale at a fair price while our experienced professionals can help you navigate the legal minefield of selling property in trust agreements. Crucially, our local knowledge of California law will serve your best interest whether the asset is in Anaheim, Long Beach, Hollywood Hills, or any other part of Southern California.

For a free no-obligation offer and a stress-free sale process, contact Premier Property Buyers now. Your trust property could be sold within 7 days!