8 Steps For Selling A House In An Irrevocable Trust After Death

April 24, 2024

Losing a loved one is a difficult time. If they owned a house in an irrevocable trust, you might be wondering what to do next. Selling the house can be a way to distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the trust's wishes. However, the process can seem daunting. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate selling a house in an irrevocable trust after death.

Review the Trust Document with an Attorney

The trust document is the foundation for selling a house held in an irrevocable trust. It serves as a legal roadmap, outlining the trustee's powers and limitations in managing the trust's assets.

A crucial aspect of the document is the sale agreement or trustee's authority to sell the property. In some instances, the trustee can sell the house any time they want, or maybe they need everyone in the family to agree, or even get a judge involved. This is where hiring an estate planning attorney may come in handy.

Attorneys can help you decipher all that legalese and make sure everything is done exactly the way the document says. Sometimes, the document may include provisions regarding the sale proceeds. For example, splitting it up evenly among family members or keeping it all together for a rainy day. An estate planning attorney may also explain all that and any tax implications that might pop up along the way.

Obtain the Necessary Documents

Before proceeding with selling a house in a trust after death, gather all necessary legal documents. First, there's the trust agreement, which spells out exactly how the property can be sold. Then, you'll need a copy of the deceased's death certificate. Finally, to get a fair price, it might be a good idea to get a fresh appraisal of the property's current market value. Having this paperwork in order will make the selling process much smoother.

Address Title Issues

Before listing the house, it's wise to conduct a title search. This ensures there are no outstanding debts, liens, or judgments clouding the title. If any issues arise, address them promptly to avoid delays in the closing process.

Prepare the Property for Sale

Getting your home ready to sell is the key to a successful sale. This may involve cleaning, making repairs, or even staging the home to attract buyers. Here are a few additional considerations to ensure the property looks its best:

Deep Cleaning

Hire professional cleaners to deep clean the house, including carpets, windows, and hard-to-reach areas. A spotless home is more inviting and can significantly impact buyer perceptions.

Address Minor Repairs

Walk through the property and take note of any minor issues, such as leaky faucets, loose handles, or chipped paint. Addressing these small defects can prevent buyers from being distracted by minor issues and focus on the home's overall appeal.

Upgrade Lighting

Enhance the home's lighting by replacing old fixtures and increasing the wattage of bulbs. Well-lit rooms appear larger and more welcoming, which can help in making a positive impression on potential buyers.

Remember, the goal is to make the home appealing to secure the best possible price. Effective preparation not only attracts more buyers but also can significantly increase the property's market value.

Find a Real Estate Agent

Selling a home, especially one held in a trust, can be complex. An experienced real estate agent can handle the marketing, negotiations, and paperwork. Look for an agent familiar with trust sales and who can answer your specific questions.

Market the Property Effectively

Once the house is ready, it's time to put it on the market. Your real estate agent will handle this, using their skills to advertise the property, list it on various platforms, and conduct showings. Effective marketing ensures a wider reach to potential buyers, increasing the chances of a successful home sale process. Here are some key strategies to consider:

Utilize High-Quality Photography

Professional photos will show off everything you love about the property, turning lookers into serious buyers. They'll be saying "wow" before they even step through the door.

Leverage Online and Offline Channels

Besides online listings, consider local newspapers, real estate magazines, and community bulletins to widen your audience.

Host Open Houses and Virtual Tours

These events allow prospective buyers to envision themselves in the space, boosting interest and engagement.

By adopting these strategies, you'll enhance visibility and appeal, helping to attract a broad pool of potential buyers. This proactive approach is essential for a swift and successful transaction.

Negotiate and Close the Sale

Buyers may make offers with contingencies like inspections to uncover any underlying problems and repairs to address them before finalizing the purchase. Your real estate agent will guide you through negotiations, ensuring all contingencies are met, and a fair price is reached before finalizing the sale. Once the sale closes, the proceeds go into the trust's bank account.

Distribute the Proceeds

Once the sale concludes, distribute the proceeds in accordance with the irrevocable trust's terms. This step must be handled with transparency to maintain trust among all beneficiaries. Here are a few additional considerations for this crucial phase:

Calculate and Deduct Expenses

Before distribution, calculate any expenses related to the sale, such as closing costs, repairs, and real estate commissions. Deduct these from the gross proceeds to determine the net amount available for distribution.

Follow the Trust's Specific Allocations

Distribute the remaining funds exactly as the trust dictates. This might involve splitting the proceeds among multiple beneficiaries or allocating certain amounts to specific purposes outlined in the trust.

Provide Detailed Accounts

To ensure transparency, prepare and share detailed financial statements with all beneficiaries. These should itemize all income and expenses related to the property sale, showing how the net proceeds were calculated and distributed.

By meticulously adhering to these steps, you ensure that the distribution is not only fair but also aligns with the legal and ethical responsibilities entrusted to you as the trustee.


Selling a house in an irrevocable trust after death can seem daunting, but by following these steps and seeking professional guidance, you can ensure a smooth and successful sale. Remember, this is a general guide, and the specific process might vary depending on the trust's terms and your location. Always consult with an attorney and a qualified real estate agent for personalized advice.


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