Removing a Trustee in California: The Common Reasons

A trustee may hold significant power over a trust, but he or she is also performing a juggling act when it comes to their myriad legal obligations to the trust and its beneficiaries. If they drop just one of these balls, this may lead to a reason for removing the trustee. However, determining when you have grounds to pursue removing a trustee in California requires the expert guidance of a trust litigation attorney in Orange County. Luckily, we are here to help.

At Gokal Law Group, for years, we have helped beneficiaries determine if they have grounds to remove a trustee, and navigate the complexities of probate to remove them and protect the beneficiaries’ inheritance, preserve the integrity of the trust, and safeguard the legacy of the family’s deceased loved one.

What Are Common Reasons for Removing a Trustee in California?

Per California Probate Code §15640, the creator of the trust, a co-trustee, a beneficiary, or the probate court can remove a trustee for several reasons.

Most reasons for removing a trustee revolve around the trustee’s violation of a beneficiary’s California trust beneficiary rights and/or the trustee’s breach of their fiduciary duty, also known as a “breach of trust.”

“We see situations every day that warrant removal, and there are countless situations that could warrant action. These breaches of trust and infringements can manifest in innumerable ways. To determine if one has good cause to remove a trustee, we recommend one start by reviewing the trust instrument and its provisions to see whether the trustee breached his or her fiduciary duty. This often requires the help of a California trust litigation lawyer.”Anum Arshad, Trust Litigation Attorney in Orange County, Gokal Law Group

For beneficiaries, removing a trustee starts with petitioning the probate court. Petitioning the court can be complicated, and after filing a petition, beneficiaries will attend a hearing where a judge will consider their argument.

Depending on the strength of your argument, the judge will order to remove the trustee, so compiling evidence and presenting a compelling case with the help of a premier trust litigation attorney is essential to success. Here are common reasons for removing a trustee in California.

Failure to Comply with Trust Terms

Trustees have a legal obligation to administer the trust per trust terms. If a trustee fails to do so, this is a breach of the trustee’s duty and could be cause to petition for trustee removal. Part of this obligation entails acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

Negligence or Mismanagement of Trust Assets

One important component of a trustee’s fiduciary duty is to manage assets in a way that does not waste or devalue trust funds. Whether the trustee is selling property at below-market prices, or is failing – or outright refusing – to act, this is unacceptable.

So, if a trustee fails to do so, whether it is out of negligence, incompetence, or outright malice, then a trustee is unfit to manage the trust, and this constitutes a breach of his or her fiduciary duty and can be one reason for removing a trustee.


Self-dealing is similar to the previous point we discussed with the difference being that, in self-dealing situations, the trustee is abusing their control over funds and assets to benefit themselves, and in doing so, breaching their fiduciary duties to the trust and its beneficiaries.

Self-dealing can take many forms, from charging abnormally high trust fees, to making risky investments, to outright stealing, and it is one of the most egregious offenses. Because of the damage it can cause, it is imperative to consult a trust litigation lawyer in Orange County to remove the trustee as soon as you suspect this is occurring.

Hostility Toward Beneficiaries or Other Trustees

Hostility toward beneficiaries can be another common reason for removing a trustee. When beneficiaries are fighting with trustees (or even, when co-trustees are fighting between themselves) over trust administration or distribution, and there is a communication breakdown, this can lead to hostility and, ultimately, may warrant removal.

Is Your Trustee Violating Their Fiduciary Duty? Work with Premier Trust Litigation Lawyers in Orange County

Still, this is just scratching the surface, and there can be other reasons which warrant removal of a trustee under the Probate Code, depending on the specific circumstances of the situation. Failing to act quickly can be just as devastating to one’s inheritance and the integrity of the trust. Do you suspect that a trustee has violated their fiduciary duty? Work with a California trust litigation attorney ASAP!

Visit our Contact Page and schedule a case evaluation today to remove a negligent, unfit, or outright malevolent trustee and protect your inheritance.

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