When creating a trust, appointing a capable and reliable trustee to manage the underlying assets is one of the most important steps in the process. However, expectations often do not reflect real-world performance on the part of a trustee. In many cases, it becomes necessary to remove a trustee. This can be a difficult process, because the court will need to see clear justification for altering the terms of the trust, and will have to be petitioned by either the creator of the trust or the beneficiaries for the there trustee’s removal.
One of the most common reasons for petitioning for a trustee’s removal is interpersonal conflict between the trustee and the beneficiaries. This is also one of the more difficult justifications to have honored by the court, because the trustee’s duty is to manage the assets in the trust, not necessarily to get along well with the beneficiaries. In order for personal conflict to justify the court’s removal of the trustee, the petitioners will need to demonstrate to the court that the personal differences have lead to some mismanagement of the assets or to the trustee not abiding by the terms of the trust.
Removing a trustee under any circumstances is not easy, and courts are generally not inclined to take personal differences as the sole motivation for doing so. This is precisely why it is so important to choose a trustee very carefully, because the position is intended to be well protected. However, the great responsibility and power of the position can often lead to the trustee self-dealing with the underlying assets for his or her own interest, which is also grounds for dismissal.
While it is possible to remove a trustee from a trust, it is not an easy process at all, and even with substantial grounds for removal, there is no guarantee that the court will honor the petition. If you are considering petitioning a court for the removal of a trustee, you would be very wise to employ the guidance of an experienced estate administration attorney who can help you navigate this tricky process and greatly improve the likelihood of success.
Source: Findlaw.com, “5 Reasons to Remove a Trustee From Your Trust,” Brett Snider, accessed Oct. 28, 2016