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Tyler Chapman offers insights in news article on probate appellate ruling

Tyler E. Chapman commented in a news article on a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court reversal of a lower court order dismissing his client’s petition for removal of a trustee.

The court found that the trust instrument was ambiguous as to whether a Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code provision is a viable basis for removing the trustee.  Accordingly, it was premature to dismiss the client’s petition for removal, the court ruled.

A key element of the court’s decision, Mr. Chapman observed, was its application of the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code, adopted in 2012, to the relevant trust document, which predates the Code.

“People drafting trusts going forward will want to be very mindful of [the statute] and understand where the terms of a trust can supersede terms of the UTC and where they cannot,” Mr. Chapman told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. “It requires people to … know what the trust settlor wants.”

At issue in the case is whether the Trust Code provision permitting removal is a “for cause” or a “without cause” reason for removal.  The trust instrument only permits removal of the trustee “for cause.”

The Trust Code provision – which is the basis for the removal petition of the firm’s client – allows a court to remove a trustee if all qualified beneficiaries request it and removal is consistent with a material purpose of the trust.

“We vacate the dismissal because we do not agree,” the court wrote, “at the motion to dismiss stage, that the trust instrument unambiguously prohibits use of [the Trust Code provision] as a viable basis of removal.”