Legal Course of Action for Removing a Fiduciary
When a grantor does their estate planning, they carefully choose the person or people who they trust to administer their final wishes. As such, the court takes allegations of impropriety very seriously, and it is not an easy task to remove a fiduciary from their responsibilities. While the grantor is still alive, it is easy to change the individuals in charge, but once the grantor has passed away, the trustee or executor must follow strict guidelines set by the court in the administration of their estate.
Reasons to Remove a Fiduciary
The path to removing a fiduciary cannot be due to frivolous reasons such as the beneficiaries being unhappy about the size of their inheritance. Fiduciaries are responsible for making sure that the grantor’s final wishes are carried out. For a fiduciary to be removed from their sworn duties, their actions need to be in dereliction of those duties, and there should be evidence presented in support of your allegations.
Court Orders for Removal
The first step in the removal process comes in the form of a court order. Courts have the ability to initiate the removal and replacement of a fiduciary if they perceive the person to be administering the estate is in violation of New Jersey statute 120 3B:14-21. Beneficiaries can also petition the court to remove a trustee if there is probable cause that the trustee has violated their fiduciary duties. Your estate planning litigation lawyer can advise you in the process of petitioning the courts.
Legal Cause for Removal
According to New Jersey law, a trustee can only be removed if they are in violation of their fiduciary duties through any of the following actions:
- Trustee failed to respond to court orders such as filing the accounting report, opening a trustee account, or hiring an outside party to evaluate property
- Trustee neglected to respond to court orders within the timeframe specified by the courts
- Funds from the estate were embezzled, misappropriated, or otherwise used in a manner outside of the best interests of the estate
- Abuse of their authority as fiduciary
- Trustee has moved out of the state where the trust is being administered
- Trustee willingly refuses to meet their fiduciary responsibilities
- Trustee becomes incapacitated and physically unable to carry out their duties
- If the trustee is one of two or more trustees responsible, and they refuse to cooperate with the others or are perceived to be interfering with the proper administration of the estate
What Happens Following Removal
If the fiduciary is removed from their administrative duties, the courts will appoint a new trustee. A new trustee can come from a unanimous request by all beneficiaries or through the court deciding which individual will meet the estate’s fiduciary responsibilities. In the case of multiple trustees, there may be no need to replace them as the other trustees may work well together.
Estate Planning Litigation Lawyer
If you are a beneficiary in Hackensack, NJ, seeking to have an administrator removed or you are a trustee who is in danger of being removed, your first step is an appointment with an estate planning litigation lawyer. The Knee Law Firm offers experienced representation from lawyers with a combined 60 plus years of experience in fiduciary litigation services and other areas of estate planning.
We can review your evidence and advise you on your best course of action. We will advise you on the best legal course of action if you feel that it is time to petition the courts. We can also offer advice if you believe that you are being unfairly removed as a trustee. Contact us at The Knee Law Firm online today or give our Hackensack office a call at 201-996-1200. We can help you if you need legal guidance on estate litigation or other estate issues.