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Limitations Periods for Breach of Trust

With the adoption of much of the Uniform Trust Code in Missouri, several areas of law trust law and litigation because more clear, including the time limitations periods for a beneficiary to commence an action for breach of trust against a trustee. Many of the limitations periods for claims in Missouri generally are five (5) years.

Therefore, a general rule of thumb is that a breach of trust action by a beneficiary must be commenced within five (5) years of the first to occur of (1) the removal, resignation, or death of the trustee, (2) the termination of the beneficiary’s interest in the trust, or (3) the termination of the trust. Section 456.10-1005.3, RSMo.

However, that is not the end of the story. In certain circumstances, the five (5) year time period can be shortened. Specifically, a beneficiary may not commence a breach of trust suit more than one (1) year after the last to occur of (a) the date the beneficiary, or a beneficiary’s representative, was sent a report that adequate disclosed the existence of a potential claim for breach of trust and the (b) date the trustee informed the beneficiary of the time allowed for commencing a proceeding with respect to any potential claim adequately disclosed on the report. Section 456.10-1005.1, RSMo. When does a report adequately disclose a potential claim? If it proves information so that the beneficiary, or beneficiary’s representative, “knows of the potential claim or should have inquired into its existence.” Section 456.10-1005.2, RSMo. These reports do not happen often, as when trustees do commit a possible breach of trust they are quick to remedy the problem and/or may be unwilling to send such a report.

Based on the foregoing, the most important thing to remember is to pay close attention to correspondences or documents received by trustees. It could have the effect of accelerating the limitations period and starting the countdown clock to file a claim. If a breach of trust claim is filed outside of the applicable limitations period, it is barred and will likely be dismissed.