Petitions to suspend the powers of a California
trustee are part and parcel of trust litigation. They’re often filed with the Probate Division
of the Superior Court in which the trust is administered or the trustee resides. California Probate Code Section 15642 provides
in part “If it appears to the court that trust property or the interests of a beneficiary
may suffer loss or injury pending a decision on a petition for removal of a trustee. . . the court may, on its own motion or on
petition of a cotrustee or beneficiary, compel the trustee whose removal is sought to surrender
trust property to a cotrustee or to a receiver or temporary trustee. The court may also suspend the powers of the
trustee to the extent the court deems necessary.” The purpose of removing a trustee is not to
penalize the trustee but to preserve the trust assets. Evidence of actual wrongdoing is not required
in order to remove a trustee. Courts take the position that the party advocating
the interim suspension has the burden of showing by preponderance of the evidence that the
suspension would be more likely to preserve the trust estate pending the resolution of
the underlying petition. The power of suspension lies within the court’s
discretion. When a court orders suspension the former
trustee who holds property of the trust is required to deliver the trust property to
the successor trustee. The former trustee is responsible for the
trust property until it is delivered. Petitions seeking the suspension of trustee
powers and the appointment of a temporary trustee are often the opening skirmishes of
a more protracted trust litigation. Hackard Law regularly represents clients in
such skirmishes throughout California major urban areas, including Los Angeles, Alameda,
San Francisco, Contra Costa and Sacramento. When beneficiaries are concerned that a trustee
is likely to dissipate assets pending the resolution of an underlying trust dispute,
they might want to consider an effort to suspend existing trustee powers and the appointment
of a temporary trustee. If you would like to talk about this with
us, call us at 916-313-3030. Thank you.