6 Things To Know When Selling Property Held In Living Trust Before Death

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Luke Martin
Luke Martinhttps://myfancyhouse.com/
I am Luke Martin, a writer who loves homes. My words are about creating comfy and nice living spaces. Let's explore ideas for decorating and making homes cozy together. Join me on this journey to make your house a special place to be.

Living trusts offer a convenient and efficient way to manage assets during your lifetime and distribute them after you’re gone. 

But what if you decide to sell a property held within your living trust before you pass away? Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when selling property held in living trust before death.

#1: Types Of Living Trust

Living trusts, a type of trust created during your lifetime, come in two main flavors: revocable and irrevocable. The key difference is in flexibility and control.

Revocable Living Trust

This is the most common type of living trust. It allows you to retain control over the assets in the trust. You can amend or revoke the trust at any time during your lifetime. Assets placed in a revocable trust avoid probate, but since you retain control, they are still considered part of your estate for tax purposes.

Irrevocable Living Trust

Once you create an irrevocable trust, you generally give up control of the assets you transfer to the trust. You cannot revoke or change the trust after it’s established. Irrevocable trusts can offer tax benefits and asset protection but come at the cost of giving up control. There are many different types of irrevocable trusts, each designed for a specific purpose. Some common types include:

Marital Trust

This trust benefits your spouse.

Bypass Trust (Credit Shelter Trust)

This trust can help reduce estate taxes for your heirs.

Charitable Trust

This trust allows you to donate to charity while still benefiting from the assets during your lifetime.

Special Needs Trust

This trust protects assets for a beneficiary with a disability.

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Asset Protection Trust

This trust can shield assets from creditors.

Choosing the right type of living trust depends on your circumstances and goals. Consulting with an estate planning attorney is recommended to determine the best option for you.

#2: The Process 

house agent successfully selling building scheme concept - business lady with investor buyer finished deal and handshake.
house agent successfully selling building scheme concept – business lady with investor buyer finished deal and handshake.

When it comes to property ownership, a will and a living trust operate in fundamentally different ways. A will takes effect only after your passing, dictating how your assets, including property, will be distributed. 

In contrast, a living trust allows you to retain control of the property during your lifetime. Think of it as a separate legal entity that holds the property title. You, the grantor, initially transfer ownership to the trust, but you can still reside there, rent it out, or even sell it—all while maintaining control.

Here’s how this shift in responsibility plays out during a sale: 

  • You designate a trusted individual, the trustee, to manage the trust property according to your wishes outlined in the trust document. This includes the sale process. The trustee acts on your behalf, finding a real estate agent, listing the property, negotiating offers, and finalizing the closing. 
  • The trust document serves as the roadmap for the sale. Here, you specify your preferences: the minimum acceptable price, preferred closing timeframe, and even any contingencies you might have. The trustee ensures the sale adheres to these guidelines. 
  • A crucial point to remember is that the property itself is owned by the trust, not you personally. This separation is key to avoiding probate. The sale proceeds become assets of the trust, ultimately distributed according to your wishes as outlined in the document. 

#3: The Probate Bypass 

One of the most significant benefits of selling property through a living trust is avoiding the probate process. Probate is a legal process that validates your will and oversees the distribution of your assets after death. It can be a lengthy and often public process involving court appearances and fees. 

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When you sell property held in a living trust, it bypasses the probate process entirely. Since the trust already owns the property, there’s no need for court intervention to determine its ownership or distribution of the sale proceeds. This translates to a faster, more private, and generally less expensive process compared to selling through a will. 

#4: Taxing Matters 

Capital gains tax is a potential hurdle to address. This tax is levied on the profit earned from selling an asset, in this case, your property. The amount of tax owed depends on the difference between your original purchase price and the final selling price.

However, the key question is: who shoulders this tax burden? There are three possibilities: 

  • If you haven’t owned the property for a significant period or made substantial improvements, you might be responsible for the capital gains tax. 
  • The trust itself may be liable for the tax, depending on how long it has held the property and any improvements made during that time. 
  • Ultimately, the beneficiaries who receive the proceeds from the sale might be responsible for paying the capital gains tax. 

It’s crucial to understand the specific tax implications in your situation. Consulting with a qualified tax advisor and an estate planning attorney is highly recommended.  

#5: Market Conditions

Just like any other product, the value of your property fluctuates based on market conditions. Selling during a seller’s market, when demand is high and inventory is low, can lead to a more profitable sale.

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Partnering with a skilled real estate agent is invaluable in this regard. They possess the expertise to assess current market trends, predict future market movements, and recommend the optimal timeframe to list your property for maximum exposure and profit potential. 

#6: Steps Involved in the Sale 

Now that you have a firm grasp of the legalities and your beneficiaries are informed and supportive, let’s delve into the practical steps involved in selling your property held in a living trust: 

  1. Preparing The Property 

First impressions create lasting memories, and this holds true for potential buyers. Investing in minor repairs like fixing leaky faucets or patching up chipped paint can significantly enhance the property’s appeal. A thorough cleaning from top to bottom ensures a fresh and inviting atmosphere. 

Consider taking it a step further with staging—strategically arranging furniture and decor to showcase the property’s space, functionality, and potential. Staging can emotionally connect buyers to the space, making them envision themselves living there. 

  1. Listing And Marketing 

Partnering with a reputable real estate agent who specializes in your area is a critical step. These professionals possess in-depth knowledge of the local market, current trends, and effective marketing strategies. 

Discuss your goals regarding the sale and collaborate with your agent to develop a comprehensive marketing plan. This might include high-quality photos and videos showcasing the property’s best features, virtual tours for wider reach, targeted online advertising, and strategic open houses to attract qualified buyers. 

  1. Negotiating Offers 

Once you receive offers, the trustee steps in to act on your behalf during negotiations. This is where your trust document with your outlined preferences comes into play. 

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The trustee will consider factors like the offered sale price, which ideally meets or exceeds your minimum acceptable amount. Closing date flexibility might be another point of negotiation, depending on your needs. The trustee will also review any contingencies included in the buyer’s offer, such as securing financing or a satisfactory home inspection. 

Through skillful negotiation, the trustee strives to secure the best possible terms for the sale while adhering to your wishes as outlined in the trust document. 

  1. Finalizing The Transaction

The closing process involves the official transfer of ownership from the trust to the buyer. The trustee, likely with the assistance of a real estate attorney, will handle the closing paperwork. This includes ensuring all legal documents are in order, such as the title transfer deed and any required disclosures. 

The attorney will also guide you and the buyer through the closing process, answering any questions and ensuring a smooth and successful transaction. The sale proceeds will be deposited into the trust account, which will be managed and distributed according to the trust’s terms. 

Takeaway 

Selling a house in a living trust before you pass away takes some upfront work. But if you know what to expect, how taxes will be affected, and who to involve, the whole thing can go much easier. The secret is to plan ahead and talk openly with your beneficiaries and advisors. By being prepared, you can make sure the sale goes smoothly and fits with your overall estate plan. 

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