Trustee Removal Attorney in San Diego, California
A trust is a legal document that protects individuals in the event of death or incapacity. In creating a trust, the trust maker must name a trustee who has the legal obligation to administer it following the trust maker’s wishes and intentions. Trusts avoid probate, assign who will inherit assets when a person passes away, set out who will manage the assets in the event of incapacity, and can create sub-trusts to manage a beneficiary’s inheritance, according to the rules set by the grantor.
Beneficiaries who have been named in a trust or will typically put a great deal of faith in the fiduciary, or trustee. In most cases, trustees operate faithfully. However, when a trustee breaches his or her duties, they can be removed by the court. In this case, it may be appropriate to seek trustee removal, and a seasoned San Diego trust litigation attorney like Vincent Casiano can help with that process. Contact him today at Casiano Law Firm and schedule an initial consultation.
Why Do I Need a Trustee Removal Attorney in California?
State law also provides guidelines about a trustee’s duties and responsibilities, which involve what is known as the trustee’s fiduciary duty, or the obligation to follow the terms of the trust agreement and to act in good faith and in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Whether an individual creates a family trust, is a trustee, or is a beneficiary of a trust, there may come a time when a trustee needs to be removed. Sometimes, trustees breach their fiduciary duties to the extent that it justifies their removal.
A trustee must be held personally liable for any mistakes and accusations made against him or her. Courts will move to protect beneficiaries and do not take the responsibility lightly. In some cases, a trust contest may lead to litigation and severe legal penalties. Hiring a credible San Diego trust litigation attorney like Vincent to work in the client’s best interests is imperative.
Who Can Remove a Trustee?
A trustee is selected by the trustor, often under good terms. However, sometimes it becomes clear that the individual chosen for the role of trustee is not the best choice. If a trustee does not fulfill their duties as required by California law, they may need to be suspended or removed from their position. Anyone considering the removal of a trustee should speak to a skilled San Diego trust litigation lawyer like Vinny before initiating any legal action.
Under the terms of the trust and state law, there are a few designated individuals who have the power to remove the trustee:
A trustor refers to the individual who has established the trust. A trust agreement should state the circumstances under which a trustee may be removed by the trustor. Trust agreements usually allow the trustor to remove a trustee, including a successor trustee. This may be done at any time, even without the trustee giving reasons for the removal. To do so, the trustor executes an amendment to the trust agreement.
A serious conflict between co-trustees can lead to one or more seeking to remove another. If the trustor is still alive, the trustees should speak to the trustor regarding the problem and ask that the other trustee be removed. If the trustor is deceased or incapacitated, the trustees should convey the problem to the beneficiaries and ask the beneficiaries to join in seeking removal.
In most cases, trust agreements have provisions that allow beneficiaries to remove or replace a trustee. A majority vote of the beneficiaries is usually required. Often the trust agreement provides that a trustee may only be removed for cause. Beneficiaries seeking the removal of a trustee may also need to file a petition for removal.
Under estate law, the probate court may decide to remove a trustee based on specific grounds for removal. Court removal of a trustee is a complex process. It involves conducting depositions, issuing subpoenas for records, and asking the court to order the trustee to provide an accounting. If the trustee has violated the terms of the agreement or their fiduciary duty, sufficient evidence needs to be submitted to the court.
Reasons to Remove a Trustee
If a trustee deviates from his or her fiduciary responsibilities, the need may arise for a trust’s beneficiary to remove a trustee. Various situations may warrant a trustee’s removal from their role. Learning about the different reasons that warrant petitioning a judge for a trustee’s removal may help in knowing if the same course of legal action will be pursued in this case.
A trustee may be removed under the terms of the trust for any reasonable cause. People without significant legal training may find these grounds for removal difficult to identify. Therefore, anyone considering the removal of a trustee should speak to a reliable San Diego trust litigation attorney like Vincent Casiano before initiating the process. With the assets held in trust being so crucial, here are some of the most common reasons to remove a trustee from a trust:
Misappropriation of Trust Funds
Trustees have a fiduciary duty to manage a trust responsibly in such a way that does not waste a trust’s funds. If they cause the trust to lose value due to their mismanagement, it can be a valid reason to seek their dismissal from their role. Therefore, when a trustee breaches that duty out of negligence or incompetence, the beneficiaries may petition for removal.
Failure to Comply With Trust Terms
A trustee is legally bound to abide by all the terms of a trust. With this grant of power comes the obligation for the trustee to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries and fulfill the terms of the trust. If the trustee ignores or fails to abide by those trust terms, the beneficiaries can petition the court to remove him or her.
Trustees shouldn’t make decisions that are in their self-interest. A trustee who uses his or her control over the funds in a trust to his or her benefit breaches the trustee’s fiduciary duty to the trust’s beneficiaries. This can prompt removal by the probate court.
Conflicts between Beneficiaries and the Trustee
Sometimes beneficiaries and trustees tend to disagree on the distribution of the trust’s assets. This may also warrant their removal from their role, but only if they have good cause to do so. The reasons must be rational and reasonable based on the circumstances.
Call an Experienced San Diego Trust Litigation Attorney Now!
Removing a trustee is not easy as it may seem. It takes more than a disagreement or general mistrust of the fiduciary to have him or her removed. An individual must provide the judge with valid reasons that made him or her believe they’ve breached their fiduciary duty and evidence to back up the position. Preparing the trust document, gathering sufficient evidence, and proving to a court that a trustee needs to be removed is far from easy and requires the legal expertise of a lawyer.
If the beneficiaries of an estate feel a trustee has violated his or her fiduciary duties, contact Casiano Law Firm as soon as possible. A competent San Diego trust litigation attorney like Vincent will want to know more about the facts of the situation before advising whether there is a valid claim for a trustee removal. Schedule an initial consultation today with our estate planning law firm to get started or to get any questions answered.