One of a trustee’s most important fiduciary obligations is to collect, inventory, take control of and protect all property belonging to the trust. To that end, Section 456.8-809, RSMo requires that a trustee take control of and protect trust property, with the exception that a trustee is not responsible for personal property that is a part of a trust revocable by a settlor/trust-creator and which is not in possession or control of the trustee. Accordingly, when a trustee assumes office one of the first and most important tasks is to identify all trust property and ensure that is adequately accounted for, insured and otherwise safe. If necessary, the trustee may be obligated to compel a former trustee or other person to deliver trust property to the trustee, and to redress a breach of trust known to the trustee to have been committed by a former trustee. Section 456.8-812, RSMo.
“Property” of a trust is not necessarily just real or personal property. Lawsuits, claims, and defending claims can also fall under the category of trust “property.” As such, a trustee is obligated to take reasonable steps to enforce claims of the trust and to defend claims against the trust. Because a trustee is obligated to prudently administer a trust, it will be the trustee’s decision to determine the viability of prosecuting or defending a claim in court or otherwise.
In conjunction with these property obligations, the trustee must maintain adequate records of the administration of the trust. Section 456.8-810, RSMo. The trust property must be kept separate from the trustee’s separate personal property. Id.
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