How & Why You Can Remove A Trustee

When someone asks you to serve as the trustee of their estate, you should ensure that you have legal counsel to assist you with this monumental task. Trustees have a fiduciary duty to the trust’s beneficiaries, and they have a significant amount of responsibility. Additionally, your attorney has a command of the current laws that govern trusts and will advise you in accordance with them. 

Before we explore why trustees get removed and who is in a position to do so, it is essential to note that Florida’s lawmakers have taken steps to preserve the settlor’s intent of the trust. (A settlor is a person who created the trust.) As we move forward and discuss the removal of a trustee, remember that the laws were written to protect the settlor’s intentions. 

Can a Trustee Be Removed For No Reason?

Florida’s laws allow for a “no-fault” removal. In other words, the trustee can be replaced even if they have upheld their fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. As mentioned above, someone may remove a trustee if appointing a successor trustee or co-trustee doesn’t impact the material purpose of the trust. For example, the trust itself could have removal language written into it. During a no-fault removal, the court will want to see that there has been:

  • A substantial change in circumstances
  • The beneficiaries unanimously wish for the trustee to be replaced
  • There is someone to assume the role of the trustee (or co-trustee)

Removal For Cause

Trustees can be removed when they have breached their fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries. For instance, when a trustee is responsible for making investments, the beneficiaries or the court may seek the trustee’s removal if the trustee’s choices have negatively impacted the trust assets and, by extension, the beneficiaries. 

A trustee cannot “self-deal” or commingle assets. Furthermore, they must appropriately document and account for the trust’s assets. Failure to do so could be grounds for their removal, as is not paying the beneficiaries in a timely manner. 

In other circumstances, it may not be the beneficiaries who seek someone’s removal. The settlor and a co-trustee may want a trustee removed for any of the reasons listed above. 

Contact an Attorney Who Understands Trust Litigation 

Luis E. Barreto & Associates, P.A., are accustomed to representing beneficiaries and trustees in a wide range of trust litigation. Allow our extensive experience with trust disputes to be your greatest asset. If you have a matter regarding a trust or the removal of the trustee, contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Luis E. Barreto