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When is it time to remove a problem trustee?

A trust is a very important part of a person's estate plan. If you have created a trust, you are likely hoping to protect and preserve certain assets until you need them during your life or until your loved ones need them after you are gone. Unfortunately, a bad trustee -- the person who manages your trust -- can work against your goals. But how do you know when to say goodbye?

There are a few telltale signs that a trustee is not acting in your best interests and should probably be removed. The first and most obvious is that he or she is not complying with the terms of the trust. Trustees are legally obligated to work in accordance with the terms. If you notice that your trustee is ignoring terms or blatantly breaking them, it may be wise to seek to have him or her removed.

Another reason to get rid of a trustee is if he or she is hostile toward beneficiaries. A trustee's job is to manage the trust according to its terms, which are usually in place to protect the beneficiaries. If a trustee is out of line in the way he or she deals with beneficiaries -- such as refusing to communicate -- it may be reason for removal.

Finally, it may be wise to seek removal of a beneficiary if he or she is mismanaging assets in the trust or managing assets for his or her own benefit. Clear displays of negligence, incompetence or self-dealing can be grounds for removal.

These are not the only reasons why a trustee may need to be removed from his or her duties, but they are some of the most common. It is important to know that removing a trustee is not always a simple process. You must file a petition with the probate court and attend a subsequent hearing at which an official decision will be made. Because the removal of a trustee is often very important for ensuring the protection of a trust's contents, many people choose to work with an experienced trust attorney.

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