Can you remove a trustee from a trust?

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2021 | Estate Planning, Trust And Probate Litigation

When you formed a trust in California, you might have named a friend or a family member as the trustee. Unfortunately, in recent years, you might have realized that this individual isn’t as upstanding as you thought. Can you remove them for the trust, or do you have to deal with the consequences of your decision permanently?

How do you remove a trustee?

To protect yourself, you should always include a trustee removal clause in your trust agreement. Even if the trustee is a close family member or friend, you don’t know what might happen in the future. Including a trustee removal clause makes it easier to remove the trustee without dealing with extensive trust litigation.

If you created the trust, a removal clause allows you to remove the trustee at any time for any reason. However, if you’re a co-trustee or a beneficiary, you’ll have to hire an estate planning attorney who could help you petition for removal. You’ll need legal grounds to remove the trustee before a judge will approve your petition.

Most legal grounds involve a breach of duty in some way. This could involve stealing assets, buying assets and reselling them, ignoring the instructions in the trust agreements, refusing to give assets to certain beneficiaries, committing fraud, filing for bankruptcy, or doing anything else that compromises the ability to manage the trust. You could also petition for removal if the trustee has become mentally incapacitated in some way.

Do you need to remove a trustee?

It’s the trustee’s responsibility to manage the trust and distribute assets to the beneficiaries. If they fail to do this, it could have a huge impact on the beneficiaries. You could talk to an attorney if you suspect that someone needs to remove the current trustee. They might have a conflict of interest or violate the terms that the trustor laid out.