Can a Successor Trustee sell or give away property left to the original beneficiary?

Dear Ms. Allison: At first, my mom was trustee over my grandma’s will and estate. After some time of my mom was not upholding her duties as trustee (due to personal problems and sadness and depression). She had to sign over her rights to her sister, my aunt, who then became trustee. In her Will and Trust, my grandmother left her house to my mother. My mother has been in a nursing home for at least 3 years. I am her power of attorney. By the way, can my aunt give the house to the city by quit claim deed when it was left for my mom – even though mom didn’t file what she was supposed to on the house? Can my aunt deed it away without any of us or her beneficiaries knowing? Name Withheld in Midwest City, Oklahoma

Dear Name Withheld:

A solid answer can only be obtained by having an attorney review the Trust and Will. However, if your grandmother had a Trust, it is likely that a Will would not be involved. A main reason to have a Trust is to avoid probate. A Will guarantees that you are definitely going to probate. So, to have both is to have one thing contradicting another. Regardless, only one of those documents – either the Trust or a Will – controls the question you have related to the house, not both.

Whether the Trust or a Will controls the outcome, the terms of the document most likely will have language about when and/or how your mother is to receive the house.

It is unlikely that the controlling document would allow your aunt to defeat the gift, but no one can know until the proper professional reviews the paperwork. It is clear too, that there is much more to this story.

As your mother’s agent with power of attorney, you should see a lawyer skilled in this area immediately. A lawyer with many years of experience in estate probate and trust administration is best suited to insure that your mother receives her rightful inheritance. You should give that lawyer complete, accurate information to equip her to use her skills most effectively.

Good luck with your pursuit,

Gale Allison

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