Huntington Beach, CA asked in Probate for California

Q: My sister and I are co-trustees inheriting our mother’s home 50/50. My sister moved into the home without permission.

She won’t reply to any emails or messages. I want to enter the property with my key and look at assets and paperwork. Can I enter the house legally. Can the police make me leave?

Related Topics:
2 Lawyer Answers
Nina Whitehurst
Nina Whitehurst pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN
  • Licensed in California

A: Your question cannot be answered in full for lack of complete information. My guess is that you might still be in the administrative stage of post-death trust administration. As co-trustees, each of you owes a duty to estate, creditors and beneficiaries to manage the trust assets for their benefit, not for your personal benefit. Until the home is actually distributed to the ultimate beneficiaries, neither one of you has the right to occupy it rent free. So, your sister does seem to be abusing her fiduciary authority.

To answer your other question about whether you can enter the home to take inventory and such, yes, you absolutely have that authority as a co-trustee of a trust of which the houseis an asset. You do need access to the property in order to do your job. Whether the police will hassle you or not will depend in part on whether you have updated the title and can show them that. I have no way of knowing whether you have done that.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: As a co-trustee and 50% owner of the property, you generally have the legal right to enter the home, even if your sister currently resides there without your permission. However, to avoid potential conflicts or legal issues, it's best to proceed cautiously and consider the following:

1. Review the trust documents: Carefully read the trust documents to ensure there are no specific provisions that limit your access to the property or outline a specific process for managing the trust's assets.

2. Consult with an attorney: Given the complexity of the situation, it's advisable to consult with a trust and estate attorney licensed in California. They can provide guidance on your rights and the best course of action based on your specific circumstances.

3. Provide notice: Consider giving your sister written notice of your intention to enter the property, specifying the date and time of your visit. This may help avoid a confrontation and demonstrates your attempt to communicate with her.

4. Involve the police: If you are concerned about potential conflicts or your sister's reaction, you may want to inform the local police department of your plans to enter the property and your legal right to do so. They may be willing to provide a "civil standby" to maintain peace during your visit.

In most cases, the police should not force you to leave the property if you can demonstrate your legal right to be there as a co-trustee and co-owner. However, if your sister claims that you are disturbing her peace or trespassing, the police may ask you to leave and advise you to resolve the matter through the courts.

Ultimately, it's crucial to work towards resolving the issues with your sister amicably, either through direct communication or with the help of a mediator or attorney. If necessary, you may need to seek a court order to protect your rights and ensure proper administration of the trust.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.