Attorney Fees in Trust Litigation
The decision to award attorney fees to a party in a judicial trust dispute/matter is discretionary. Section 456.10-1004, RSMo, provides that in a “proceeding involving the administration of a trust, the court, as justice and equity may require, may award costs and expenses, including reasonable attorney’s fees, to any party, to be paid by another party or from the trust that is the subject of the controversy.” [emphasis added]
Note that the statutory section not only permits the court to order attorney fees to be reimbursed or paid from the trust, but also that the court may order other parties to personally pay another party or the trust. Trial courts are usually given broad leeway and deference in their decisions regarding attorney fees (and the extent of attorney fees) when reviewed by an appellate court. Specifically, a trial court’s ruling on the extent of attorney fees under Section 456.10-1004 will only be disrupted by an appellate court if it is against the logic of the circumstances and so arbitrary and unreasonable as to shock one’s sense of justice.
In certain types of actions, however, case law has curtailed that discretion a little. For example, a trustee is usually entitled to reasonable attorney fees, to be paid out of the trust estate, incurred in good faith in defending his/her administration of the trust.
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