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.