How Long Can a House Stay in a Trust After Death in California?

When someone passes away and leaves a house in a trust, the trustee responsible for distributing assets has considerable influence over how long it takes for you to receive your inheritance. While it can feel like you are powerless in this situation, it’s essential to understand that there are rules to protect you and ensure you receive your rightful inheritance. 

At Gokal Law Group, we have helped countless beneficiaries receive the inheritance they are entitled to when trustees refuse to distribute assets or are ignorant of their duties. Here’s what to know about how long a house can stay in a trust after the person who created it dies.

How Long Can a House Stay in a Trust After Death in California?

A house can technically remain in a trust as long as the trust can legally stay open, which is at most 21 years after death. A common misconception many people have is that a trust can stay open forever. 

Of course, some exceptions do exist, which mostly boil down to the type of trust you are dealing with. A dynasty trust, for example, can theoretically last forever. However, most people do not deal with these specialized types of trusts. For the average trust, there is a set timeframe. 

The first thing to do is review the trust terms. Unless the terms in the trust document state otherwise, a trust cannot continue indefinitely. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to follow the terms of the trust, which usually entail either selling the house it holds or distributing it to beneficiaries. 

If a trustee fails to do these things within the timeframe indicated in the trust, you have grounds to pursue trust litigation because this is a breach of fiduciary duty. Once the trustee has distributed all assets, the trust will end. The longest period of time a house can stay in a trust also depends on when the person who created it passed away.

A trust can stay open up to 21 years after the death of the individual who created it, meaning a house can stay in a trust at most 21 years after the passing of the trust creator. This rule is for your protection because it ensures you eventually receive the trust assets you’re entitled to. 

Most trusts settle within 12 to 18 months after the passing of the trust creator, though they sometimes take longer, depending on the complexity. If you feel a trustee is failing or refusing to distribute assets within an acceptable time frame, contacting an attorney is of the utmost importance to safeguard your inheritance and ensure the trustee is fulfilling their fiduciary duty.

“A house can technically remain in a trust for up to 21 years after the person who created it has passed away, but this is uncommon. Usually, the trust terms provide a clear timeframe for when it will be distributed, and trusts are often settled shortly after the person who created it passes away. If a trustee refuses to distribute a home you are due to inherit, this is a huge red flag. Contacting a trust litigation attorney ASAP is essential.”

Ali Nicolette, Associate, Gokal Law Group

Related Article: What if a Trustee Refuses to Distribute Assets?

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While a house can technically remain in a trust for up to 21 years after a trustee passes away, this is uncommon unless specific language in the trust document dictates it. If a trustee is taking too long to distribute a home or other assets, not only does this constitute a sign that they may be violating their duty to follow trust terms, but it could hurt your inheritance in the long run as expenses pile up associated with managing the trust itself. These come out of the assets you are due to receive. You deserve to receive your full inheritance, so contacting a trust litigation lawyer is essential.

Visit our Contact Page to schedule a consultation to safeguard your inheritance and hold a trustee who refuses to fulfill their fiduciary duty accountable.


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