When can you seek to have a trustee removed?

Your father appointed an old family friend or perhaps your stepmother to be the trustee of his trust. However, now that he's gone, you don't think that person is administering the trust appropriately. Can you have them removed? It all depends.

First, you should determine whether the trust includes a removal clause. This would detail who can seek to remove a trustee and under what circumstances. If there's no such clause, it will be up to the probate court to determine whether the trustee can be removed. Typically, you need to be a beneficiary, co-trustee or settlor to ask a probate court to order a trustee's removal.

Typically, trustees can be removed for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Serious breach of trust: This can include things like mishandling of funds or doing anything else that harms the beneficiaries.
  • Failure to administer the trust effectively: For example, a trustee may be unwilling or unable to perform the duties required.
  • Lack of cooperation with other trustees: If a trustee can't or won't work with their co-trustees and, as a result, they're unable to properly administer the trust, they can request that the problem trustee be removed.
  • All beneficiaries request removal: This is grounds for removal as long as it doesn't go against the intent of the person who created the trust. The beneficiaries have to provide the court with a good reason for the request, however.

It's not uncommon for loved ones who weren't chosen to be a trustee to have problems with the way the designated trustee is doing their job. This is particularly true when there's already family conflict. However, if you believe that a trustee is not acting in good faith or is failing to do their job, it's wise to talk with your loved one's estate planning attorney or your own attorney to determine what your options are.

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