In the recently-reported decision in Pantazis v. Fidrych, Case No. 02-CV-0919, 2008 Mass. Super. LEXIS 386 (Worcester Super. Ct. Nov. 7 2008), the Superior Court addresses, among other things, its authority to remove a trustee.
As the Court describes it, "[t]his case is yet another in a continuing saga of internecine battles between adult children over hard-earned parental savings." There are three trusts at issue, all settled by the parents of William Pantazis and Ann Fidrych, who are siblings. The first two trusts are nominee realty trusts holding a number of properties, including income-generating properties. William and Ann were co-trustees of the nominee realty trusts. The third trust at issue, called the Parents Trust, is the sole beneficiary of the nominee realty trusts. William and Ann were also co-trustees of the Parents Trust.
The Court found that William had breached fiduciary duties by failing to account for trust income, including in response to an earlier order to do so, and that he had systematically "looted" money. Based on this breach of the trust relationship, and on the evidence of hostility between William and his mother, who is a beneficiary of the Parents Trust and joined Ann in this matter against William, the Court held that the trust relationship had been violated and ordered William's removal as trustee of all three trusts. "There is no doubt that the Superior Court has the authority to remove a trustee in certain circumstances."
Ann's previous, unilateral effort to remove William as a trustee had failed. According to the trust terms, a trustee could be removed only by a writing signed by a majority of the beneficiaries. As a co-trustee of the Parents Trust, which is the beneficiary of the nominee realty trusts, William would have been required to -- but did not -- sign off on his own removal.