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 S.W.3d 37, 48 (Mo. Ct. App. 2016).
Among an array of other duties, trustees must administer the trust in good faith, in accordance with its terms and purposes and in the interests of the beneficiaries. The trustee is obligated to uphold the validity of a trust by defending it against claims, preserve the trust assets and carry out the settlor’s/trust-maker’s intent. Murphey v. Dalton, 314 S.W.2d 726, 732 (Mo. 1958). Fiduciary litigation and trust litigation is complex. Legally, there is a presumption that a trustee administers the trust in good faith; accordingly, the burden is on the plaintiff, or person claiming wrongdoing, that the trustee is acting improperly. Barnett v. Rogers, 400 S.W.3d 38, 48 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013).
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