If you suspect a trustee is abusing their financial power over an estate, you can take legal action to remove them.
An estate is often a large, complicated gift a loved one leaves after their death. Its official distribution can take years, if not decades. If you suspect that a trustee is breaching your deceased loved one's trust, you can take legal action to prevent them from making any further irresponsible decisions.
A trustee's responsibilities
In the state of Texas, a trustee's "fiduciary duties" are not defined explicitly, nor are the rules to replace them. However, common law and good faith clauses separate their responsibilities into four major categories.
- Duty of Loyalty
- Duty of Full Disclosure
- Duty to Exercise Reasonable Discretion
- Duty to Competently Administer the Trust
If the trustee fails in any of these duties, they are liable to formal complaints from the estate's beneficiaries. A trustee must be transparent in this process and never contrary to the wishes of the estate.
However, just as the law maintains a beneficiary's right to inherit, there is also language in many estate plans to protect trustees from beneficiaries who attempt to overtake them. It can be a complex issue best handled by an attorney.
Look out for these violations
If a trustee does not fulfill any of the following legal obligations, they may be liable to be removed:
- Failure to provide statement of trust assets, expenditures, and receipts to beneficiaries
- Failure to provide an annual formal accounting, reporting trust activity and trust assets
- Theft from the trust
- Seemingly overwhelmed, incapable of paying creditors and other management duties
- The trustee is medically incapable of performing their duties
- Openly hostile towards beneficiaries
What you can do
If you are a beneficiary of the estate in question, alone or with other beneficiaries, you can file a lawsuit against the trustee for a breach of fiduciary trust. Probate court will handle the case and may remove the trustee, replace the trustee, redistribute assets or any other number of outcomes it deems fair.
Removing a trustee is a complicated legal matter and it is always best to seek legal advice.