Trustees have an important duty to uphold -- and not everyone who is named as a trustee is capable of handling the responsibility.
What can you do if you're the beneficiary of a trust and you no longer have faith in the trustee's abilities?
Removing the current trustee is possible. However, in order to make that happen, one or more facts have to be true:
1. You can prove that the trustee isn't performing his or her duties. For example, if the trustee has unofficially turned over his or her duties to someone else because he or she finds the task too difficult, that's a good reason to seek a new trustee.
2. The trustee is negligent or otherwise wasting the trust. This could take the form of simply mismanaging the assets through incompetence or using the funds for his or her own benefit somehow. If a trustee is taking excessive compensation to perform his or her duties, that's another form of mismanagement.
3. The trustee fails to act in a timely manner or communicate properly with you or the other beneficiaries. A trustee that won't return your phone calls, puts off your requests for information or is otherwise reluctant to provide you with an account of the trust's activity isn't behaving appropriately. Open hostility from a trustee toward a beneficiary is also grounds for removal.
4. There is a complete failure to abide by the terms of the trust. For example, a trust may dictate that the trustee pay one beneficiary's bills directly because he or she has a drug addiction. If the trustee is simply handing that person the money instead because it's easier, that's a good reason to ask for a new trustee.
5. There is another good cause. This is something that you have to present to the court for consideration and show that your request makes sense under the circumstances. Perhaps the trustee is insolvent, incapacitated due to health problems or won't cooperate with a co-trustee.
The trust, as written, may provide a method to replace the trustee. If not, you'll have to petition the court and attend a hearing to request the removal. Because this can be a complicated issue, an attorney who is familiar with trusts and estate issues can be of great benefit.
Source: Monterey Trust Management Private Client Services, "Common Questions And Answers Regarding Trusts," accessed May 11, 2017