Trustee Good Faith Discretion, Breach of Trust
A trustee has the duty to exercise the requisite care, skill and diligence of a person of ordinary prudence would exercise. Jarvis v. Boatmen’s National Bank of St. Louis, 478 S.W.2d 266, 273 (Mo. 1972). The specific actions necessary to accomplish this goal depends on the nature of the trust, particularly its assets and distribution schemes. Generally, moreover, and subject to the terms of the trust document itself, the trustee is required to reduce to possession and conserve the trust assets and to protect the trust estate from loss and injury. Morrison v. Asher, 361 S.W.2d 844, 850 (Mo. Ct. App. 1962).
If there is a suit claiming that the trustee has breached his/her/its fiduciary duty, the legal presmption is that the trustee has acted in good faith and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff questioning the trustee’s actions to establish a breach of trust. Jarvis, 478 S.W.2d at 273. Though the Court can remove a trustee for certain breaches of trust, most breach of trust claims are for damages against the trustee for mis-manging the trust. Traditionally, if there is a determination that the trustee has committed a breach of trust, the beneficiary(ies) is entitled to recover (1) the loss in value of the trust property attributable to the breach, (2) the trustee’s profit as a result of the breach or (3) the loss of profit to the trust which would otherwise have accrued but for the breach.
Contact with questions about truste & estate litigation.