Can my aunt sell my grandparents’ house if I still live in it?

The house was left in a Trust; there are 5 siblings including my mother. My nana stated that my mother and her children could live in the home rent free as long as we paid the utilities, taxes and insurance. I don’t believe there was a timeframe, however she did say that the house was to be sold when the market was good. I thought she had wished that the house only sell when all 5 agree. The siblings

want to sell, my mother has left on her own and I don’t have anywhere to go. Do I have a legal right to be here and do they have to wait until I find a new home to sell? Can they sell the house from under me and put me on the streets?

Asked on May 5, 2017 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If the house was in a trust, then the trustee of the trust may  sell it whenever she thinks the time is right, *provided* that selling it meets the goals of the trust or terms of the trust instrument, or is within the permitted discretion provided to her by the trust. She does not need the consent of the beneficiaries of the trust, so long as she is acting in accordance with the trust; and she certainly does not need the consent of any persons who may be occupanying or using trust property but who are not themselves trust beneficiaries, since such persons have no rights under the trust. (You question does not indicate whether you are a trustee or not.)
She may not act in a way against the terms of the trust or her powers under it.
So the issue is whether the trustee over the trust containing this home is acting within the scope of her power and authority under the trust; if she is, she can do this. If a trust beneficiary believes that the trustee is acting outside her power or against the goals of the trust, that beneficiary could bring a lawsuit in chancery court (a part or division of county court) seeking to have the trustee "account" for, or justify her, her actions under the trust: if she cannot, the court could issue an order barring the proposed action or even remove her as trustee.
Note that whether you live there or have no place else to go is irrelevant: all that matters is whether the terms, goals, etc. of the trust are being complied with.


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