How to Replace a Trustee of a California Living Trust

By Beverly Bird

A living trust is a revocable trust created during its creator's lifetime. The creator is also the trustee, and he can tweak its terms any time he likes. He can also name another trustee, if he wishes, and remove that trustee at any time. When the creator of the trust dies, however, his trust becomes irrevocable. This shifts the power to his successor trustee, the individual he named to take over for him after his death. Under some circumstances, California law allows the decedent's beneficiaries to remove the named successor trustee and nominate someone else to serve instead.

A living trust is a revocable trust created during its creator's lifetime. The creator is also the trustee, and he can tweak its terms any time he likes. He can also name another trustee, if he wishes, and remove that trustee at any time. When the creator of the trust dies, however, his trust becomes irrevocable. This shifts the power to his successor trustee, the individual he named to take over for him after his death. Under some circumstances, California law allows the decedent's beneficiaries to remove the named successor trustee and nominate someone else to serve instead.

Step 1

Review the trust documents. If they include a “certificate of independent review,” it may be difficult to replace the trustee under California law. This means that its creator consulted with an attorney before selecting his successor trustee, and the attorney counseled him regarding his choice and approved it.

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Step 2

Collect documentation to prove your position that the court should remove the existing trustee. You must have grounds to remove and replace the trustee. In California, these grounds include refusal or failure to perform the tasks associated with the job, bickering with co-trustees to the point where the behavior impedes settlement of the trust or a breach of fiduciary duty, meaning that the successor trustee committed some act that was detrimental to the trust or its beneficiaries.

Step 3

Complete a petition asking the court to remove the successor trustee. California offers an extensive self-help website that provides these forms, and they are also available from other websites. Fill in the blanks, identifying your relationship to the trust, such as if you are a beneficiary, a co-trustee or have another interest in its administration. Explain why you think the court should remove the trustee and attach copies of the proof of wrongdoing you’ve gathered.

Step 4

Serve a copy of your completed petition on everyone who has an interest in the trust. These include all beneficiaries, as well as the successor trustee and any co-trustees. The petition includes spaces for you to list the names and addresses of all these people. California law allows you to serve them by mail, but a disinterested party must be the one who actually deposits the petition in the mailbox or takes it to the post office.

Step 5

Ask the person who mailed your petition to sign the second page, attesting that he placed copies in the mail to everyone you listed.

Step 6

File your completed petition with the probate court in the California county where the creator filed his trust. The court will notify you if a hearing is required.

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How to Delete a Trustee From a Trust in California

References

Related articles

Trustee Resignation and Appointment

A trustee's right to resign his position is not absolute. The trustee's resignation must be authorized by the trust document or state law, and a trustee can face civil liability for failing to fulfill his duties under the law. The appointment of a successor trustee is governed by the trust document if it contains such a provision or by state law if it does not.

Removing a Successor Trustee

A successor trustee is a person or entity who administers a trust after its original trustee dies or is incapacitated. In many cases, the trust grantor who created the trust serves as the original trustee; the successor trustee takes over the trust when the grantor dies. If the beneficiaries do not approve of the actions of the successor trustee, they may attempt to have him removed.

How to Obtain a Copy of a Living Trust in California

A living trust is a means of transferring property to an individual or group of people. It is created by a person known as a settlor or grantor, who often acts as trustee, or manager of the trust, and names a successor trustee to manage and distribute the property in the trust upon his death. If you are a beneficiary named in the trust, you may want to obtain a copy of the living trust from the current trustee to see what property you are entitled to receive.

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