The governing documents established at the creation of the trust determine what happens if the role of trustee is vacated for any reason. This includes the trustee’s decision to step out of the role, a legal conflict in which the court determines the trustee needs to step down, or the death of the trustee.
If none of the trust documents explain that there’s a successor trustee or what should happen if the original trustee passes away, this raises concerns for the beneficiaries. For this reason, the creator of the trust should think about this situation in advance.
The appointment of co-trustees removes the immediate need for appointment of someone new, but this should only be done in situations where the co-trustees will be able to get along and make decisions about the trust in a collaborative manner; the appointment of co-trustees who can’t work together can do more harm than good.
If that has not happened, however, there are options for beneficiaries to take action so that a successor trustee can be named.
If there is a vacancy for the role of trustee in Maryland with no co-trustee currently in service, that vacancy is filled in the following order:
- By a person listed in the trust document as a successor trustee
- By a person who has been unanimously appointment by all involved and qualified beneficiaries
- By a person who has been formally appointed by the court
Qualified beneficiaries include permissible recipients of that trust’s income or principal and those who could become permissible recipients if the trust were to terminate. Ready to discuss trustee and successor trustee options? A phone call with our Maryland trust and estate lawyers can help.