To remove a hostile, incompetent, dishonest or disinterested trustee, you must file the appropriate paperwork with a probate or family court. The beneficiaries of the trust must agree to the removal. Depending on the case, the process can last for several weeks or even months. Trust laws vary from state to state. However, the general process for requesting the removal of a trustee requires several mandatory steps.
Comply with your state’s trust laws. In California, beneficiaries of a trust have three years from the date of receiving a trustee’s report to ask the court to remove the trustee and appoint a replacement. The state of Texas does not have such a restriction. According to the Texas Supreme Court, "No statutory limitations period restricts a court’s discretion to remove a trustee." Contact your state’s probate or family court system to learn more about your state’s trust laws.
Visit the probate court where the trust is held and petition the court for a hearing. Ask the county clerk for the correct forms. Cite the reasons why you wish to have the trustee removed. A judge can remove a trustee if he owns more debts than assets or the trustee exhibits hostility toward the beneficiaries of the trust.
Ask the court to suspend the trustee’s powers while the case is pending if you believe the beneficiaries’ interests are at risk, according to the Superior Court of California. Provide supporting documentation such as statements of loss or evidence of the trustee’s gross mismanagement of the trust.
Mail notice of the hearing to all trustees, beneficiaries and persons whose right, title, or interest would be affected by the petition within the time period specified by the courts. Comply with state restrictions regarding the amount of time you have to notify interested parties.
Attend the hearing. Request the immediate removal of the trustee and provide supporting documentation and testimony from witnesses who can support your claims of breach of contract or professional incompetence.
Request damages from a neglectful trustee. Some settlers limit a trustee’s liability to willful misconduct or gross negligence. Determine if such restrictions are written into your trust’s documents. If no such restrictions are enforceable, ask the court to make the trustee pay the beneficiaries for any loss to the trust.
A trustee is the person who manages the affairs of a trust and distributes assets according to the instructions provided by the settler or creator of the trust.
- Estate Planning: What is a Living Trust?
- Law Professors: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog
- Fidelity Investments. "What Is a Trust?" Accessed March 6, 2020.
- American Bar Association. "Revocable Trusts." Accessed March 6, 2020.
- HG.org Legal Resources. "When to Consider an Institutional Trustee." Accessed March 7, 2020.
- AARP. "Choose the Right Executor or Trustee." Accessed March 6, 2020.
- American Bar Association. "Choosing the Executor or Trustee." Pages 10-11. Accessed March 6, 2020.
Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.