Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

Can a Trustee of an Inter Vivos Deed be also a Beneficiary?

Asked on 12/18/14, 3:16 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

I have no idea what you are talking about as I have not seen the documents.

There is no such thing as inter vivos deeds. Deeds are all inter vivos - which is Latin for "between the living." You necessarily need a living human to sign it even if a human is acting at the behest of a corporation or an entity or a dead person. And there can be no non-inter vivos transfers. Unless you believe in zombies, dead people cannot sign any deeds.

As for deed types there a quit-claim deeds, non-warranty deeds and warranty deeds. There are also things called life-estate deeds (or Lady Bird deeds) which to my knowledge are only valid in a few places.

So lets dispense with this legal jargon that adds nothing and get to the relevant facts.

Who or what owns the land? A trust of some kind? If there is a trust then there has to be documentation creating the trust. Who is trustee? Who is beneficiary? What does the trust say about distributing property and who gets it?

To my knowledge trustees can be beneficiaries if this is the usual garden variety revocable living trust and if the trustee is a relative of the settlor/grantor. The prohibitions against self-dealing would only come into play where the trust instrument does NOT make the trustee a beneficiary and the trustee uses/abuses his/her powers to benefit himself (same thing occurs with a power of attorney - when I draft mine I include a provision that the agent cannot use the power of attorney in such a way as to gift all the principal's assets to himself/herself so as to cut off any rights of the principal or other people who would benefit if the principal died). Obviously, if there is a corporate trustee it would be very unusual for the corporate trustee to deed itself land from the trust unless the trust was somehow conveying the land in a sale - obviously if there is this level of self-dealing I think its incumbent upon beneficiaries to get this whole transaction reviewed by their own lawyers to make sure all is up and up.

Since you post no relevant details, you can either re-post with the relevant information or better yet, sit down with probate/trust counsel and pay him/her to review what you have.

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Answered on 12/19/14, 3:17 pm

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