Co-Trustees Can Sue To Remove A Co-Trustee Due To Hostility

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In Ramirez v. Rodriguez, three co-trustees sued a fourth trustee to have him removed due to his hostile actions: he “has engaged in a pattern of creating hostility and friction that impedes and/or affects the operations of the trust.” No. 04-19-00618-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 1340 (Tex. App.—San Antonio Feb. 19, 2020, no pet.). The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the suit, and the court of appeals affirmed the denial of the dismissal. The court stated:

Sonia, Victor, and Javier sought to have Santiago removed as a co-trustee under section 113.082(a)(4) of the Texas Trust Code, which allows a trial court to remove a trustee based on a finding of “other cause for removal.” Tex. Prop. Code Ann. § 113.082(a)(4). “Ill will or hostility between a trustee and the beneficiaries of the trust, is, standing alone, insufficient grounds for removal of the trustee from office.” Akin v. Dahl, 661 S.W.2d 911, 913 (Tex. 1983). However, a trustee will be removed if his hostility or ill will affects his performance. Id. at 914. Furthermore, “[p]reservation of the trust and assurance that its purpose be served is of paramount importance in the law.” Id. For this reason, hostility that impedes the proper performance of the trust is grounds for removal, “especially if the trustee made the subject matter of the suit is at fault.” Bergman v. Bergman-Davison-Webster Charitable Tr., No. 07-02-0460-CV, 2004 Tex. App. LEXIS 1, 2004 WL 24968, at *1 (Tex. App.—Amarillo Jan. 2, 2004, no pet.) (mem. op.). Removal actions prevent a trustee “from engaging in further behavior that could potentially harm the trust.” Ditta v. Conte, 298 S.W.3d 187, 192 (Tex. 2009). “Any prior breaches or conflicts on the part of the trustee indicate that the trustee could repeat her behavior and harm the trust in the future.” Id. “At the very least, such prior conduct might lead a court to conclude that the special relationship of trust and confidence remains compromised.” Id.

Id. The court concluded that the plaintiffs raised sufficient allegations to support a claim:

As previously noted, a trustee can be removed if his hostility or ill will affect his performance or the proper performance of the trust. Akin, 661 S.W.2d at 913; Bergman, 2004 Tex. App. LEXIS 1, 2004 WL 24968, at *1. We hold Sonia, Victor, and Javier presented clear and specific evidence of a prima face case that Santiago’s hostility was impeding his performance as a co-trustee and the performance of the Trust. Accordingly, Sonia, Victor, and Javier satisfied their burden of proof, and the motion to dismiss was properly denied.

Id.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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