Tensions sometimes develop between the beneficiaries of a family trust and the trustee. When those tensions escalate, the beneficiaries may decide that it’s time to see if the trustee can be removed.

Where can you start? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Get an order to comply: If you believe that the trustee isn’t properly adhering to the terms of the trust, you can ask the probate court to force the issue. If the trustee doesn’t comply with the court’s directive, that may be good evidence to support your request to eventually remove the trustee from the position.
  2. Review the trust: You will likely need legal help to do this properly, but you need to understand how the trust is worded, who has the power to remove the trustee and on what grounds they can be removed. This can help you look for avenues toward removal aside from things like mishandling the assets or a breach of trust.
  3. Determine if legal action is warranted. If you believe that a trustee has stolen from the trust through fraud or embezzlement, you may also need to consider a civil claim for damages or talking to the police about criminal charges. Your time to act, however, is limited, so don’t delay too long in hopes that the trustee will suddenly make things right again.
  4. Decide if you have good cause for your request. If your relationship with the trustee has broken down completely, you believe the trustee is unreasonably hostile to you or you simply feel that they are neglectful or mismanaging the funds, you have every reason to take legal action.

The courts are reluctant to remove a trustee without convincing evidence that there’s a serious problem and a definitive need to do so. You don’t want to try to make that case on your own. Find out more about how an experienced lawyer can help with trust litigation.