Planning for the future of our family members and close friends is an essential reason for estate planning. Estate planning helps us to solidify not only our own futures, but the secure futures of our loved ones. There are a variety of planning instruments that can be employed, depending on your goals and your estate. Trusts can be an important element of your plan, and come in many different varieties. However, each and every type of trust has several elements in common, one of which is the trustee. The trustee is the one who is responsible for administering the trust according to the instructions of the grantor, as set out in the trust documents. The trustee is sometimes a professional individual, such as a lawyer or accountant, but more often than not, the trustee is simply a person trusted by the original grantor. The trustee has a wide variety of responsibilities in his or her role, and these responsibilities can be exceedingly complex depending on the terms of the trust. In some limited circumstances, the trustee may fail to properly carry out the necessary responsibilities and may need to be removed.
Unlike during probate, a trust is not necessarily administered through the court. Trust documents are not automatically filed with the court, and a trustee is appointed by a private individual, not a judge. If the trust is a revocable trust, the original grantor may remove the trustee at any time for any reason, or even no reason at all. However, if the trust is an irrevocable trust, then a court order will be required to remove the trustee. Any qualified beneficiary may bring an action to remove the trustee. A qualified beneficiary is one who is actually receiving distributions from the trust income or the trust principal. There are a variety of reasons that a beneficiary may seek to have a trustee removed, including: 1) a serious breach of trust by the trustee; 2) if there are co-trustees, a lack of cooperation so serious that administration of the trust is adversely impacted; 3) the “unfitness, unwillingness, or persistent failure” of the trustee to administer the trust; and 4) a substantial change of circumstances. If the court finds any one of these are true, the trustee may be removed and a new trustee appointed.
We have extensive experience helping our clients with all aspects of trusts and trust litigation. Call us today at 651-371-9117 to talk about your case.