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When you should remove a trustee in California

Many people incorporate trusts into their estate plans. Trusts can be used to provide for your loved ones long after you’ve passed away.

Trustees are the people entrusted to manage the trust’s assets, usually on behalf of a beneficiary. It’s not impossible for a trustee to also be the beneficiary of the trust — but that doesn’t mean they can’t be removed as a trustee.

Why you would want to remove a trustee

A trustee’s main job is to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and the trust. If you have reason to suspect that a trustee is not doing their job, you may have cause to remove them from that role. Usually, trustees are removed for the following reasons:

  • Breaking the terms of the trust
  • Neglecting or mismanaging trust funds
  • Self-dealing
  • Disagreements or hostility with beneficiaries

If a beneficiary has a reason for the trustee to be removed, they can submit their reasoning to the court even if it falls outside of the above guidelines. However, it’s up to them to prove that there’s good cause to remove the trustee.

Examples of when to remove a trustee

A trustee isn’t just in charge of distributing assets, but protecting those assets until the beneficiaries need them – so they need to be proactive in managing these assets. If the assets go neglected or become mismanaged, the beneficiaries have cause to remove the trustee.

A trustee can also be caught self-dealing, or specifically using the trust to benefit themselves. A probate court might also remove the trustee if they are hostile/unwilling to work with beneficiaries, or otherwise break the terms of the trust.

Removing a trustee can be a difficult decision. However, the interests of the trust should always come first — even if it means making a difficult decision.