How can I get out of half-ownership of property my parents left to me in a living trust?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My sister and I own a beach home which is in our revocable living trust set up by my deceased parents. We each own equal shares. Can I sell my half? I never go there and my sister is spending all the funds set up for the house on decorating it. Half of that money is mine also. I am getting no benefit from the property, so I want to sell my half. Can I force my sister to buy it from me?

Expert Answer

Liza Hanks is the founder and owner of FamilyWorks Estate Planning, a law firm with offices in Campbell and Los Altos, California, and the author of The Busy Family's Guide to Estate Planning (Nolo, 2007).

It depends on what the trust specifies about your ownership and whether it gives you any options about selling it.

As a practical matter, you are not very likely to find a buyer for half the house if your sister is hostile to that idea.

And no, you cannot force your sister to purchase your half unless the trust specifically provides some way for that to happen.

If you think that your sister is actually squandering trust funds by spending them on the house, or on herself, in a way that the trust prohibits, you should seek the advice of an estate planning attorney.

All states have rules about what accounting information a trustee is required to provide to the beneficiaries, and, if your sister is spending the money improperly, she will have to pay the trust back. If she refuses to cooperate, it might be time to ask a court to intervene to require that cooperation or replace her as a trustee.