Trusts: Trustee Duty to Report & Inform
As part of a trustee’s general fiduciary duty, a trustee must keep qualified beneficiaries reasonably informed about the status of the trust and of facts necessary for them to protect their interests. Section 456.8-813, RSMo. Because this is a fuzzy standard and is quite fact intensive, the Missouri Trust Code states that a trustee presumptively meets the duty to report and inform if the trustee does certain things, including, without limitation, sending annual reports of the trust’s liabilities and assets to the beneficiaries. Moreover, it is prudent and advisable for a trustee to (1) furnish a copy of the trust instrument to any beneficiary upon request; (2) deliver to all beneficiaries the trustee’s mailing address and telephone number within 120 of acceptance of the trusteeship and a general statement of the trust’s character and existence; and (3) notify the beneficiaries the trustee’s compensation rates.
Importantly, moreover, a trustee must promptly respond to a beneficiary’s request for information related to the administration of the trust. In furnishing such information, the trustee may charge a reasonable fee to a beneficiary for providing information under this section.
Failure to keep beneficiaries adequately apprised is a breach of trust, which, if serious enough, may merit trustee removal. Based on experience, whether a trustee is keeping beneficiaries reasonably informed about the trust’s status is often the subject of litigation. From a trustee’s perspective, therefore, it is better to be conservative and provide too much information to avoid being accused of not providing enough.
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