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Real Estate Matters: A reader suggests a life estate over living trust. Here's our take.

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: Not really a question as much as a comment. As a Realtor for 34 years I'm not a fan of trusts, so I'm disappointed in your recent response to a question about selling a property inside a trust.

A home held in a trust is not that easy to sell or for heirs to cash the check after a closing or settlement. A life estate deed is by far the easiest way to go. The property is controlled by the owners during their life. They can sell or do whatever they choose.

Immediately after their passing, the property automatically goes to the person or persons listed in the life estate deed. A deed also trumps a will (I know this from personal experience).

I don't claim to be an attorney or give legal advice, but I just know with my experience as both an heir and a Realtor I'd much prefer the life estate deed anytime!

A: We're sorry to disappoint you. We've never found any issues or problems with sellers using trusts to sell their homes. Once the property is in a trust, most settlement agents and title companies only need to verify that the person signing on behalf of the trust is authorized to sign.

Most frequently, the person signing is the person that set up the trust in the first place. He or she will have a copy of the trust and as the trustee and beneficiary under the trust, he or she shouldn't have any problems conveying ownership to a buyer.


Now if the trustee/beneficiary has died, the trust document should name a successor trustee. If the successor trustee has a copy of the trust, there shouldn't be any issues selling the property to a subsequent buyer.

We're not sure what problems you've seen. But who exactly gets the proceeds from the sale could cause an issue at times.

With the number of real estate transaction fraud growing, title companies and settlement agents generally prefer to issue the proceeds check from the sale of a property directly to the owner. In the case of a trust, the owner is the trust and the title company or settlement agent may request that the proceeds check be made payable in the name of the trust.

Some settlement agents and title companies will allow the trustee to direct them to issue proceeds checks to a different person or persons. In circumstances where the check is made payable to the trust, we can understand how that could cause a problem for the seller.


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