In a previous post, we covered the things trustees do that can lead to their being removed from that position. After you’ve identified where a trustee has abused this position of trust, and as you seek to have the offending trustee removed, the next step is to petition the court for that removal, and to appoint a successor.
It’s important that you work with an experienced probate litigation attorney on the petition process. This area of law is complex (even for lawyers). If you are unfamiliar with probate litigation, you risk increased delays and costs if things aren’t filed or presented correctly.
A trustee can be removed either by the terms of the trust or by court order. If you need to remove a trustee, the first thing is to contact a probate and trust litigation attorney who can help you put together a plan for removing the trustee.
If the trustee can’t be removed under the terms of the trust, then this will have to be done by going to court. The petition to the court should include specific details explaining why the trustee should be removed. If possible, include evidence to support your case (usually documentation such as copies of checks made out to the trustee or other evidence of the misuse of the trust’s funds or assets).
Your attorney will review the case to determine if your situation qualifies as an emergency (this can speed up the process in cases where the trustee is spending money or otherwise reducing the value of the trust).
Here’s an example of one such emergency case:
One family had a large amount of gold bullion owned by the trust. The bullion was kept in a safe in the home of the family member who was managing the trust. Other family members noticed that the trustee had bought several new cars and expensive jewelry for his wife. The family suspected the trustee of using the bullion to fund these extravagant personal purchases.
After reviewing the case and gathering evidence that showed exactly those things, I helped the family petition for emergency status to remove the trustee. We were able to get an immediate court order freezing the assets and requiring that the remaining gold bullion be transferred to a secure storage facility.
Although you need to gather evidence of wrongdoing once you notice something wrong, the funds may not be returned. It is extremely difficult to recover money once it’s been spent. Waiting and hoping things work out rarely works out well. It’s better to take immediate action if you think a trustee is acting improperly.
Don’t be afraid to consult an attorney. Look for one who will work to protect the value of the trust while exploring ways to resolve disputes.
If you have any questions about removing a trustee or need help protecting your inheritance from an ineffective trustee, comment below or contact our office.
We’d love to help.