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Can a trustee remove a beneficiary?

Apple Valley, CA |

My mother who is a trustee on my Grandfather's estate told me that she got permission before my grandfather died to add her sister as an executive trustee with my Grandfather's permission. And that my Grandfather had her open the trust to my Aunt. She never asked me & I'm a beneficiary. Her and her sister were also concealing the hospice my Grandfather was residing in before he died. So I had no way to ask him if this was true. My Aunt stopped talking to me a couple months before he died. Recently my Mom has told me my Aunt doesn't want me to know about the trust account and that they spent my money on cruises? She states one minute that she was going to give me my trust money & another time stated I didn't deserve it. Can they do this to me? And can my Aunt remove me as a beneficiary.

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

Attorney Pankowski's response is accurate when he states that your rights and the rights of your mother are governed by the terms of the trust. In California, assuming your grandfather was not survived by your grandmother, the trust became irrevocable upon the death of your grandfather. The trustee was required to give you notice and make a copy of the trust available to you, as a beneficiary, on request. Get a copy, if you do not already have one, and consult an attorney as to what your rights are and what the trustees rights are.
As to whether your mother could add her sister as executive trustee on a verbal request of your grandfather, I would be suspicious of that allegation. The trust will contain terms that state how a successor trustee is to be appointed and that is normally in writing or by order of the court. If you are a beneficiary of the trust and it has become irrevocable upon your grandfather's death, you should see an attorney about obtaining an accounting from your mother and your aunt. They may not have the right to spend money on themselves if the trust does not provide for that. Last, you refer to "your trust money." How do you know you are a beneficiary? Have you seen the trust and have you had an attorney explain its meaning to you?
You have many questions that can only be answered in consultation with any attorney. You may have no rights or the trustees may be breaching their fiduciary duty to you if your statements are taken at face value.
Seek the advice of an attorney.

Nothing contained in the information on this web site is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice for specific cases and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. This web site is intended for educational purposes only. Michael R. Weinstein, is licensed to practice only before the courts of the State of California, and is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Central District and the United States Cou rt of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. No information contained herein is to be considered applicable to legal matters in domestic or foreign jurisdictions outside of the State of California.


Your questions depend on the terms of trust, which was either created under your Grandfather's Will (a "Testamentary Trust") or a separate Trust Agreement (typically known as a "Living Trust"). For example, many trusts permit the appointment of a co-Trustee. Furthermore, you may not be the sole beneficiary, so the payments for cruises, etc. may be legitimate. Your best bet is to obtain a copy of the document which established the trust and have it reviewed by a California attorney. He or she can then advise you of your rights as a trust beneficiary.


Do you KNOW you are a beneficiary? Are you the ONLY beneficiary? Verbally amending a trust to add a Trustee or to "open it to your aunt" seems impossible and inaccurate. You were entitled to a copy of this trust as mentioned by the brilliant Mr. Weinstein. If you have never been given one, you realize that you need to find an attorney to see what happened.

Use the web site to find an attorney in your area. In addition to that, contact your local bar association for referral to an attorney who specializes in this or talk to friends and neighbors to ask about an attorney they have used and liked. Often, but not always, the attorney will do an initial consultation free of charge. You will then be in a better position to determine what to do next. Best of luck to you!

If you liked this answer, click on the thumbs up! Thanks. Eliz. C. A. Johnson Post Office Box 8 Danville, California 94526-0008 Legal disclaimer: I do not practice law in any state but California. As such, any responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to a general understanding of law in California and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as legal advice can only be provided in circumstances in which the attorney is able to ask questions of the person seeking legal advice and to thus gather appropriate information.


You can't verbally amend or re-state a trust. Also, if the amendment was in writing, there are still issues raised in your fact pattern concerning possible undue influence due to the isolation from other family members.

The trustee should not be spending the trust funds on cruises. If this is what you are alleging, you should consider filing a court action for an accounting and if there has been fraud or gross mismanagement of funds, suspension and/or removal of the trustee is a remedy as well as surcharge on the trustee (to recapture lost money).

You should see a lawyer.

Legal disclaimer: Legal disclaimer: This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Do not rely on this advice without speaking to an attorney in detail about your case. This message does not create an attorney-client relationship (760) 328-5073 (951) 934-0620