Many estate and trust disputes in California involve the allocation of real property or real estate among multiple beneficiaries. A trustee usually has the discretion to sell real estate and distribute the proceeds to all beneficiaries in equal shares. They may also allocate the property to one or more beneficiaries if there are no objections to the proposed distribution. But without an experienced real estate attorney on your side, trust and probate administration may hit a litigious wall.
Allocation of Assets
If a real estate parcel gets distributed on a pro-rata basis among two siblings, both will get 50% undivided interest in the property if they have an equal remainder share through the trust. This is commonly treated as a tenant in common. In the case of a pure pro-rata distribution of assets, both siblings would get equal interest in the real assets distributed through the trust. Any administrative expenses would be paid first though.
A pro-rata distribution can be rife with conflict. Tenants in common share an equal right to property but may not be able to allocate the use. For instance, which sibling gets Christmas week?
Non-pro rata distribution is the other form of asset allocation. The beneficiaries will receive a proportional share in the total value of assets instead of getting an equal interest.
The sibling that wants the real estate may receive it and the other sibling may get its corresponding value without asset co-ownership. As per California Probate Code section 16246, trustees can choose the manner in which they distribute assets.
Dealing With Divided Interest in Property
The property can transfer to more than a single beneficiary with equal interests in the property. This may seem fair to the transferring party but can give rise to several litigation issues. Problems can quickly arise when the beneficiaries fail to see eye to eye on the disposal of the property. The true owner of the property is not apparent in these cases since everyone owns an equal share.
For instance, if three siblings inherit the family house with only one sibling wanting to sell, they may file a partition action. This is usually when the other two siblings either don’t want to sell their shares or don’t have the money to purchase the third sibling’s share. The third sibling can move the court for forcing the sale of the property to cash out their interest.
Title Transfer Not Made to the Trust
In some cases, a parent will not transfer the title to the trust. Instead, they may transfer the title to a property to one of the children as joint tenants with survivorship rights to avoid probate. In this case, a big problem may arise if there is a trust stating that the property needs to be transferred to all children equally.
The child that has their name on the title as a joint tenant may not want to share the property and may argue that the property was a gift outside the trust. The matter will be tried to be resolved informally through negotiations or mediation among the parties. If no resolution is reached, the trustee or executor asserting the right to property in the name of the trust will need to file an 850 petition in probate court.
This is to have the property transferred back to the trust and redistributed as per the terms of the trust documents among all children. Such matters can become full-blown lawsuits requiring discovery and a trial to determine rightful owners. The action is usually taken by a trustee for protecting the estate assets and bringing them back into the estate.
Estate litigation can become costly, and the trustee usually has the benefit of using estate assets for pursuing a lawsuit. In case the matter remains unresolved and leads to a lengthy lawsuit, the use of assets by the trustee will leave less money in the estate to be distributed. If the problem is not resolved early on, it can become a lose-lose situation for all involved parties.
Real Estate Inheritance Attorneys Can Resolve Legal Issues
Real estate distribution is not always seamless among family members. Inheritance disputes usually revolve around the allocation of property and money. These are a few common issues that an inheritance attorney may work to resolve:
- Perceived inequity of allocation: Significant changes right before an individual’s death can be a concern. The same holds true for massively different inheritances among the beneficiaries.
- Wrongful acts: Beneficiaries can always raise doubts about undue influence surrounding the trust.
- Intention: An experienced real estate inheritance dispute attorney can assess the intentions of the deceased and present it to the court to ensure your loved one’s wishes are honored.
Talk to a Skilled and Knowledgeable Real Estate Attorney Today
At Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP, our attorneys have decades of combined experience in working with family members within the court systems to obtain the inheritance they deserve. We are dedicated to helping you receive fair treatment.
Call us at (415) 399-2900 or reach us online for a free case evaluation.