I was declared disabled by SSDI about 25 years ago. The disability is permanent. I cannot work. There was no provision for my being unable to work made in the trust, though at the time of he creation of the trust, the disability was well known. Additionally someone, sibling(?) also a beneficiary of a trust set up by our father, has been discussing personal matters with the Trustee. I want to change trust companies for that and other reasons (current bank hasn't done many things it agreed to) and I have found a local Trustee who has offered me a better return which I need. What can I do? It's an irrevocable trust.
How a trustee can be changed is set out in the trust document. I am guessing that you and the other beneficiaries would need to agree on any change. Going to court to remove the trustee is an option if that trustee is breaching its duty. But note that a trustee isn't obligated to get you the best return - the standard is to act like the average prudent investor; in fact, taking wild risks to seek a better return would be a breach of the trustee's duty. So, changing a trustee, esp. in the face of opposition from your other beneficiary, won't be easy. This really is an area of specialty, and so you need to seek out an expert trust attorney to advise you on your options.
To questioners from West Virginia & New York: Although I am licensed to practice in your state, I practice on a day-to-day basis in Massachusetts. I answer questions in your state in areas of the law in which I practice, and in which I feel comfortable trying to offer you assistance based on my knowledge of specific statutes in your state and/or general principles applicable in all states. It is always best, however, to work with attorneys and court personnel in your own area to deal with specific problems and factual situations.
Unless the trust gives you power to change the trustee, the only way that can happen is by a court order or possibly by agreement of all the beneficiaries through a non-judicial settlement or by court order. The only way to know for certain is to take a copy of the trust document to an experienced estate planning attorney for review.
At the same time, the attorney can review the trust holdings and accounts with you and determine whether the trustee has properly carried out its duties under the Prudent Investor Act. (Generally, small trusts will be invested very conservatively because the a small trust cannot afford to take the risks that large trusts can -- but even large trusts have to be carefully invested.) If the trustee has been too conservative with investments relative to the size of the trust, there may be cause for removal.
E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.
I agree with my colleagues. Usually a beneficiary cannot unilaterally remove a trustee. The terms of the trust should address changing trustees. However, as the others have said, trust investors owe a duty to the beneficiary to be prudent with the trust's funds in order not to put them at risk.
I also agree that you should take the trust and your questions to a trust attorney in your area for review and a discussion of your options.
Please note: The above is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to establish and does not establish any attorney-client relationship.
There are many factors which would influence the answer, not the least of which are the actual terms of the trust (some trusts provide the possibility of removing the trustee and replacing it with another corporate trustee of a certain asset size.) One would need to analyze the various interests, and then determine whether it is "worth the fight." Removing a trustee who doesn't want to be removed is not an easy thing, as others have noted. It tends to be an uphill battle, but there are times when it is necessary and can be done.
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