The Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) sections 711 and 719 set forth the various grounds for the removal of a trustee (or executor). The procedures may involve the removal of the trustee with process (petition to Court with service of citation upon Trustee) or without process (no citation to issue).
Pursuant to SCPA 711, the various grounds for removal of a Trustee include the following (among others): ineligible based on grounds for disqualification since initial appointment, wasting of trust assets, failing to comply with Court order, removed assets from the state without prior Court approval, trustee does not possess the attributes to act as trustee based on substance abuse, want of understanding, or is otherwise unfit for office.
As per SCPA 719, a trustee may be removed without process for reasons including, but not limited to, the following: refusal to appear in Court as directed, withholding information or documents from the Court in defiance of Court directive, where Trustee has been convicted of a felony, or where Trustee has comingled trust funds with their own persona funds.
It should be noted that the Court does not take a procedure for removal of a trustee lightly, and will not just remove a trustee (or any fiduciary) just because of a simple disagreement with another party to the trust such as a beneficiary. The grounds for removal must be those as previously set forth in the SCPA, and one seeking the removal of the trustee should carefully document any alleged wrongdoing by the fiduciary. Of course, an experienced estate litigation attorney should be contacted and retained before taking the serious steps of removing a trustee. An attorney would most likely suggest sending a letter to the trustee (or their attorney) setting forth the grounds for removal, and possibly giving the fiduciary a fixed period of time to remedy the problems before Court intervention is sought.