If there are 2 legal documents regarding the distribution of property but they differ, which one controls?

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If there are 2 legal documents regarding the distribution of property but they differ, which one controls?

Deed is in 2 sisters’ names with mother retaining a life estate. Daughters share equally. Trust gives 1 daughter an additional 1/4 share of the value of the house. Which document rules – the deed or the trust?

Asked on May 27, 2011 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

S.J.H., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If the Deed has been filed, the deed rules.  A trust document only defines the trustees assets and explains what happens after the trustee passes on. Based on your question it appears that mom is still alive and has a life estate in the premises. The trust only comes into account when she dies and her assets need to be divided in accordance with the trust. Once she executed the deed. and it is filed, mom loses ownership of the house and thus the trust does not control that asset anymore. If the deed is not yet filed at the time of her death, then there will be a question of whether it is an asset of mom and at that point,m the trust would superceded.


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