If you have a trust that you use as a part of your estate plan, then you chose and appointed a trustee somewhere along the way. However, in many cases, the trustee you chose when you established the trust no longer serves your best interests or the interests of your beneficiaries. If you have substantial concerns about your trustee's ability or willingness to perform the job, it is time to consider replacing the trustee with someone more capable of protecting your priorities.
While removing a trustee is not an extremely complex legal procedure, it is one you must handle with great care. A trustee has fairly broad access to the assets held within the trust, so it is important to address the matter wisely to avoid further complications and potentially lose some assets along with your relationship to the trustee in general. Some careful, timely planning can help you transition to a different trustee more in line with your needs while keeping your rights and assets secure.
Is the trustee failing to uphold his or her duties?
Broadly speaking, trustees stray from the path of acceptable performance in two main ways. They may either fail to perform their duties in a professional way, or they may have conflicts with beneficiaries or other related parties. While both of these concerns are serious and may justify replacing your trustee, instances where a trustee mishandles assets are particularly concerning.
Trustee may neglect their duties, or may perform them so poorly that they need replacing. This is common in instances where a person chooses the trustee based on the strength of the relationship to the person, or because of a misconception of the trustee's abilities. If your assets face danger because of the conduct of your trustee, you should certainly consider replacements.
This is especially true when a trustee uses his or her power for personal gain. Serving as trustee entails some form of fair compensation, to deter trustees from self-dealing, but this is not always effective. Any instances of self dealing by a trustee warrant immediate consideration and possibly replacement.
Is the trustee in conflict with a beneficiary?
It is also possible for trustees to develop conflicts with beneficiaries or even with you directly. When this occurs, you must prudently assess the nature of the conflict and determine the best way to resolve the dispute. If it is something minor and you have faith that your trustee listens to reason, then some direct intervention may resolve the matter.
If not, you should consider replacing the trustee for the sake of your estate and your priorities for your assets. You certainly don't want your beneficiaries to face difficulty dealing with the trustee once you are gone.
Do not push a trustee conflict to the back burner once it arises. In the long run, you're much better off dealing with the matter professionally and directly as soon as possible.