Many Californians have established their own trusts, whether to protect themselves in old age or to lend an inter-generational legacy of support to their loved ones. However, a trust is only as good as its management. Sometimes, the person who created a trust—or its beneficiaries—have to remove a trustee who is dishonest, incompetent, or otherwise unsuited to their role. Removing a trustee

Who Can Remove a Trustee

Removing a trustee from their post can be difficult. After all, one of the many reasons people establish trusts is to make it harder to contest the terms than the terms of a will.

Additionally, only certain people have the proper standing to take a trustee to court. California law allows for the following individuals and entities to remove a trustee:

  • The trustor, sometimes called the grantor or settlor. The trustor is the person who established the trust. If they are still alive, they can remove a trustee.
  • If there is more than one trustee, the co-trustees can file a petition to remove one or more of their colleagues.
  • The trust beneficiaries are entitled to challenge the trustee if they believe their inheritance is being misused or improperly disbursed.
  • A California probate court, which may intervene in trust administration to remove a trustee.

Why a Trustee May Have to Be Removed

Sometimes relationships change, and the trustor may not want an estranged relative or a former spouse to have control over their estate.

California allows a trustee to be challenged for any reasonable cause, including:

  • Breach of duty
  • Irresponsible use of trust funds or assets
  • Inability to properly administer the trust
  • Taking excessive compensation
  • Trust insolvency

Removing a Trustee

Removing a trustee is not always a simple action. If the trustor is still alive and has founded a revocable trust, they may simply amend the trust documents to name another trustee. Some trusts may also contain provisions that allow for a trustee to be removed under certain circumstances and will outline a procedure for doing so.

But if the trustor is no longer alive or has an irrevocable trust, anyone wishing to remove a trustee will have to go to court.

Any party with a reasonable interest in the trust—such as co-trustee or a beneficiary—must file a petition with the probate court requesting that it remove the trustee. If the court accepts the petition, they will schedule an evidentiary hearing. During the evidentiary hearing, the person challenging the trustee will have to show evidence that the trustee has failed to do their duty. The trustee will also be given a chance to defend themselves. The court may decide to remove the trustee or temporarily suspend their decision—or it may choose to let the trustee remain.

How an Attorney Can Help

Challenging a trustee means going to court and preparing an evidence-based cased guided by California’s probate code. An experienced probate attorney can help you review the trust’s conditions, the trustee’s potential misconduct, and the evidence available.

Contact Us Today

The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc has decades of experience in California probate courts and trust disputes. Send us a message online to schedule your initial consultation.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
Join The Conversation
how to remove a trustee in california 06/14/2021 11:13 AM
A trustee is selected by the trustor (also known as the settlor or grantor), often under good terms. However, sometimes it becomes clear that the individual chosen for the role of trustee is not the best choice and cannot carry out their duties properly. Learn more at
Post A Reply
Post A Comment