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Trusts: Duty of Loyalty

A trustee has a fiduciary duty of loyalty to act in the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries. While the Settlor (i.e., trust-maker) is alive and has capacity to revoke the trust, the duties of the trustee are owed exclusively to the Settlor. Section 456.6-603, RSMo. There is typically a shift in these duties when […]

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Trust Law versus Corporate Law, Controlling Duties

When a trust owns corporate shares, do corporate fiduciary obligations or trustee obligations prevail? The answer is that generally a trustee’s obligations take priority. Upon incorporation of trust assets, the corporation becomes the alter ego of the trustees and the trustee’s acts are determined in the light of the trust. Weldon Revocable Trust v. Weldon, 231 S.W.3d 158, 171 […]

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Will Contests: Grounds, Necessary Parties

A last will and testament may be contested on numerous grounds, the most common of which include challenges for lack of capacity, fraud, duress, and/or undue influence. There are strict, specific deadlines for challenging a will. While the deadline varies, a will contest is usually pursued after a will is admitted to probate. An order […]

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Special Fiduciary, Trust Litigation, Breach of Trust

In breach of trust litigation, the plaintiff can request a variety of remedies against the trustee. The remedies include, among other things, damages, removal and/or suspension. In more contentious situations, a probate court does have the authority to appoint a “special fiduciary” to administer the trust, in whole or in part, while the suit is […]

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Will Contest, Multiple Wills, Res Judicata

If a will contest is successful, then the legal effect is that the will is invalid and void. Section 473.083.7 (A will contest determines “intestacy or testacy or which writing or writings constitute the decedent’s will.”). Accordingly, assuming there is no prior will, the Court finds that the person died intestate/without a will in the […]

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Joint Ownership, Probate, Non-Probate Transfer

Typically, only assets that a deceased individual solely owns without a beneficiary designation must pass through probate. Because of this, trusts are often implemented to circumvent probate. Other than trusts, co-ownership arrangements or non-probate transfers are frequently utilized to avoid probate. A non-probate transfer (e.g., transfer on death, payable on death) operates to where the […]

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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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Trusts, Principal Place of Administration

Trust litigation can often involve interstate disputes as to what state and county should hear and entertain the litigation. This is because trusts will often involve family members, trustees and beneficiaries who reside in different states. Many states have adopted the Uniform Trust Code as a means of providing more consistent laws on how trusts […]

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Fraud Under the Probate Code

Fraud under the probate code is a legal claim in Missouri codified in Section 472.013 RSMo. It states as follows:  Whenever fraud has been perpetrated in connection with any proceeding or in any statement filed under this code, or if fraud is used to avoid or circumvent the provisions or purposes of this code,any person injured […]

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Equitable Retainer

Trust, estate and probate law has many interesting quirks. An example of this is the equitable retainer doctrine. In short, it is a legal concept which, in practice, reduces the amount of inheritance a heir may receive if the heir had a debt to the deceased. In other words, if you are to inherit money from […]

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