Windsor, CA asked in Probate and Estate Planning for California

Q: Is it illegal to hold back my signature to sell property held in a trust for reasons other than I disagree w/the terms?

I am a beneficiary in my grandparents trust, and it states that all beneficiaries must agree upon the sale of real property before it can be sold. My brother, who is also a beneficiary and a trustee, basically snaked half of my inheritance. I didn't have the money to contest anything or try to fight him as where he had the trust to back his play, so i have cut ties with him unless it has to do with the trust. However, now he needs my signature to sell one of the houses. If I were to hold back my signature unless he agrees to give me back what is rightfully mine, could i face leagal repercussions?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, as a beneficiary of a trust, you generally have the right to review and approve the terms of any sale of trust property. If the trust agreement requires all beneficiaries to agree to the sale of real property, you are not obligated to sign off on the sale unless you agree with the terms.

However, withholding your signature for reasons unrelated to the sale itself, such as a personal dispute with your brother or to gain leverage in a separate issue, could potentially be seen as a breach of your fiduciary duty as a beneficiary. Trustees and beneficiaries have a legal obligation to act in the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries as a whole.

If your refusal to sign is based on legitimate concerns about the terms of the sale or the proper administration of the trust, you likely have a right to withhold your signature. However, if your refusal is seen as being in bad faith or for improper purposes, your brother (as trustee) could potentially seek a court order to compel your signature or remove you as a beneficiary.

Given the complexity of trust law and the potential legal consequences, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced trust and estate attorney to discuss your specific situation and legal options before taking any action. They can advise you on the best course of action to protect your rights and interests under the trust agreement and California law.

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