Trust agreements are an increasingly popular addition to any comprehensive estate plan, in part because of the versatility and flexibility they offer when it comes to accomplishing estate planning goals and objectives. One thing that all trusts have in common is that in all trusts a Trustee must be appointed to administer the trust terms and manage the trust assets. With a revocable trust, the Maker of the trust can change or modify anything about the trust at any time; however, in an irrevocable trust nothing can be changed once the trust takes effect. Can a Trustee be removed though under any circumstances? The answer to that question is “yes”, under certain circumstances Trustee can be removed, even in an irrevocable trust. Common reasons to remove a Trustee include:
- • Failing to abide by the trust terms – unless the terms are illegal, impractical, or unconscionable, a Trustee is legally bound to abide by al the terms in a trust. If the Trustee fails or refuses to abide by any of the terms it may be grounds for removal.
• Self-dealing – a Trustee is in a fiduciary position, meaning all decisions and actions must have the best interest of the beneficiaries in mind. Making decisions that benefit the Trustee instead of the beneficiaries may be cause for removal.
• Breakdown of communication with beneficiaries – one of the primary duties of a Trustee is to communicate with the beneficiaries on all trust matters. A breakdown in communication, therefore, means the Trustee has failed to live up to that responsibility.
• Mismanagement of trust assets – ideally, a Trustee’s management of trust assets results in growth of those assets. If the opposite occurs, and assets are wasted or devalued, a Trustee can be removed.
• Good cause – this is a “catch all” category that may be used for other situations that may not be as common but that may be sufficient to convince a judge that trustee should be removed.
The power to remove a Trustee may reside in the beneficiaries or with a court. If the terms of the trust itself allow the beneficiaries to remove the Trustee it may not be necessary to petition a court. Otherwise, you will have to appeal to a judge to have a Trustee removed.
If you have additional questions or concerns about trusts or Trustees, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.