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Legal Memorandum: Removal of a Trustee in NY

Issue: Under New York law, may a co-trustee seek removal of another trustee?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate
Keywords: Removal of co-trustee; Trustee's duties
Jurisdiction: New York
Cited Cases: 713 N.Y.S.2d 622; 275 A.D.2d 979; 110 N.Y.S.2d 763
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2012

In re Hall, 275 A.D.2d 979, 713 N.Y.S.2d 622 (4th Dep’t 2000) indicates that removal would be a viable option.  In In re Hall, the petitioner alleged that the respondents, her co-trustees, would not cooperate with her as a co-trustee, excluded her from meetings and decisions about the trust, refused to share financial and other documents with her, and “acted in a way that prevented petitioner from performing her duties as co-trustee, thus warranting their removal as co-trustees.”  Id. at 980, 713 N.Y.S.2d at 623.  The appellate division also held that the petitioner herself should be removed based on an inherent conflict of interest; even though there was no evidence of improper conduct, “[i]f the interests of a trustee conflict with her interest as a trustee, the court may remove her as a trustee.”  Id. 

Similarly, in In re Graves’ Estate, 110 N.Y.S.2d 763 (Surr. Ct. 1952), the court reviewed the case law that made clear a surrogate’s court has the authority to remove a trustee based on the inability of the trustee’s and his or her co-trustee’s to agree and to function.  Id. at 766.  The court noted that when there is a charge of misbehavior requiring removal, a hearing must be had to determine which trustee should be removed.  Id.

To reward fidelity to trust with removal and discredit would seriously injure trust management.  On the contrary those who in the proper performance of fiduciary duty have […]

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