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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 “unwillingness” are independent grounds for removal, neither of which are, as of this writing, addressed by much case precedent in Missouri.

While there is a lack of case precedent on the subject, the comments to the uniform trust code do briefly expound upon their meaning on the context of trustee removal. Specifically, “unfitness” includes not only mental incapacity, but also inability to administer the trust. The court is to consider the extent the extent to which the problem may be solved by a delegation of functions the trustee is personally incapable of performing. Moreover, “unwillingness” includes not only cases where the trustee refuses to act — but also a pattern of indifference to some or all of the beneficiaries.

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