I often meet with trustees who want to sell the family house that is in the trust.   This is frequently the parents’ house, and the surviving children don’t want to own and manage the house together.

The trustee usually has the power to sell real property without getting anyone’s permission, but I generally recommend that a trustee obtain the agreement of all the trust’s beneficiaries.  If not everyone will agree, then the trustee can submit a petition to the Probate Court requesting approval of the sale.

Taking these steps protects the trustee from a potential lawsuit by one of the beneficiaries.  If the trustee just sells the house, a beneficiary can always complain that she got too low a price, or paid too high of a commission, and so forth.  Moreover, the beneficiary may have several years to file a complaint.  Getting everyone’s consent or the court’s approval allows the trustee to close the book on the trust.

As part of this process,  I generally recommend that a trustee hire a reputable real estate agent to list and sell the house.  A good agent will understand the need to get the beneficiaries’ consent or court approval, and she has every incentive to get the best possible price.   If the trustee does have to go to Probate Court,  a good agent can help him document the steps taken to sell the property at the market price.