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314.283.8930; henry@elsterlaw.com

Voidable Transactions, Trustee Conflicts of Interests, Duty of Loyalty

A trustee owes a fiduciary duty to a beneficiary. Therefore, a trustee is generally not permitted to enter into any transaction that is a conflict between the trustee’s personal interests and fiduciary responsibilities, unless (1) the transaction was authorized by the trust, (2) approved by the Court, (3) consented to or ratified by the beneficiaries, […]

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Trust Litigation: Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Breach of Trust

Trustees are fiduciaries who must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. To win on a claim of breach of fiduciary duty or trust, a plaintiff needs to prove that there is a (1) fiduciary duty, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation and (4) harm/damages. Matter of Wilma G. James Trust, 487 […]

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Successor Trustee Authority, Release of Liability

The general rule in Missouri is that successor trustees, unless the terms of the trust document say otherwise, possess all of the duties and authority of the initial trustee and/or any predecessor trustee. Therefore, a successor trustee usually possesses all of the “specific powers” of a trustee articulated in Section 456.8-816, RSMo. One of the […]

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Corporate Derivative Shareholder Claims, Beneficiary Trust Claims

With corporations, the directors and officers manage the corporation for the benefit of the shareholders. With trusts, the trustees manage the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. When a corporate officer/director commits a wrong against the corporation, or causes another injury to the corporation, a shareholder can bring a derivative on behalf of the […]

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Trustee Removal: Lack of Fitness, Unwillingness

Trustee removal is complex litigation. Missouri has mostly adopted the uniform trust code, which authorizes trustee removal for cause when (among other circumstances) there is “unfitness” or “unwillingness” of a trustee. Most trustee removal claims center on allegations of breach of trust, failure to effectively administer or lack of cooperation among co-trustees. However, “unfitness” and […]

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Trusts and Supervised Administration

A primary selling point for trusts is that they are generally administered independently and outside of the court. Rather than rely on court orders and instructions, the trustee distributes the property per the directives articulated in the trust instrument. While this may be a benefit in many circumstances, sometimes it is more beneficial to have […]

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Special Damages versus General Damages

“Damages” refers to the amount of money a plaintiff may be entitled to as a result of some civil wrong committed by a defendant (e.g., breach of contract, breach of trust, trespass, personal injury, etc.). “General damages” are those that flow as a natural and necessary result of the act complained of, whereas “special damages” […]

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Prudent Investor Rule, Asset Management, Fiduciary Litigation

A fiduciary (e.g., trustee, personal representative, etc.) has an obligation to invest and manage assets as a “prudent investor” would. When making investment and management decisions, the fiduciary should consider the purposes, terms, distribution requirements and other circumstances of the trust or fiduciary relationship. O’Riley v. US Bank, NA, 412 S.W.3d 400, 414 (Mo. Ct. App. […]

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Trust Litigation & Disputes: Mediation and Arbitration

Because probate, trust and estate litigation is often quite complex and expensive (e.g, breach of trust, trustee removal, trust contests),  many estate planning and drafting attorneys have included provisions to try to avoid or expedite these problems if a dispute arises down the road. An increasingly common way they combat this is by including mandatory […]

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Trustee Good Faith Discretion, Breach of Trust

A trustee has the duty to exercise the requisite care, skill and diligence of a person of ordinary prudence would exercise. Jarvis v. Boatmen’s National Bank of St. Louis, 478 S.W.2d 266, 273 (Mo. 1972). The specific actions necessary to accomplish this goal depends on the nature of the trust, particularly its assets and distribution schemes. […]

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