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 powers specifically mentioned in Section 456.8-816 is the authority of a trustee to “pay or contest any claim, settle a claim by or against the trust, and release, in whole or in part, a claim belonging to the trust.” What this sometimes involves — particularly in cases of breach of trust, trustee removal or trustee vacancy — is the successor trustee investigating, suing or compromising claims of wrongdoing that may have been committed by a predecessor trustee. Consequently, in addition to the administration of a trust prospectively, a successor trustee may have a duty to pursue any claims of liability the trust may have against a prior trustee.
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