To ensure that a trust operates as intended, it’s critical to appoint a trustee that you can count on to carry out your wishes. But to avoid protracted court battles in the event that the trustee isn’t doing a good job, consider giving your beneficiaries the right to remove and replace a trustee. Without this option, your beneficiaries’ only recourse would be to petition a court to remove the trustee for cause.

Defining “cause”

The definition of “cause” varies from state to state, but common grounds for removal include:

  • Fraud, mismanagement or other misconduct,
  • A conflict of interest with one or more beneficiaries,
  • Legal incapacity,
  • Poor health, or
  • Bankruptcy or insolvency if it would affect the trustee’s ability to manage the trust.

Not only is it time-consuming and expensive to go to court, but most courts are hesitant to remove a trustee that was chosen by the trust’s creator. That’s why including a provision in the trust document that allows your beneficiaries to remove a trustee without cause if they’re dissatisfied with his or her performance can be a good idea. Alternatively, you could authorize your beneficiaries to remove a trustee under specific circumstances outlined in the trust document.

Adding successor trustees

If you’re concerned about giving your beneficiaries too much power, you can include a list of successor trustees in the trust document. That way, if the beneficiaries end up removing a trustee, the next person on the list takes over automatically, rather than the beneficiaries choosing a successor.

Alternatively, or, in addition, you could appoint a “trust protector” with the power to remove and replace trustees and to make certain other decisions regarding management of the trust. Contact us for additional information on the role of a trustee.

© 2022