In Missouri, a trust is created when a person (called the creator or settlor) transfers property to someone they name as the trustee to be kept and managed by the trustee for the benefit of a third person or persons (called a beneficiary or beneficiaries). There are many types of trusts and many different reasons for creating a trust as part of an overall estate plan. For example, parents often create trust of their children, allowing the trustee to manage the child’s assets until the children reaches age 18, 21, or another specified aged. A special needs trust is created to hold and protect the assets of a person with special needs. Just like with any other estate document, in some cases disputes develop over the creation or construction, or over how the trustee managed its assets. Regardless of the reason and regardless of your role, if you are involved in a dispute related to a trust, it is critical to make sure an experienced Missouri trust litigation lawyer is on your team.
Common Reasons for Trust Disputes in Missouri
The most common reasons that trust litigation develops are allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, questions about the validity of the trust, and confusing language in the trust.
- Breach of fiduciary duty. If the trustee’s actions are inconsistent with the trust agreement, violate Missouri law, or are inconsistent with an order of the court, the trustee may have breached their fiduciary duty. A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another person or persons. When fulfilling their responsibilities, they are required to act in the other person’s best interests and to put the other person’s interests ahead of their own. It is a relationship of trust. In the case of a trust, if a beneficiary feels that the trustee has breached their fiduciary duty, they can initiate trust litigation.
- Validity of the trust. A trust contest is a type of trust litigation during which an objectant argues that the trust is not valid. The grounds for a trust contest can include that it was improperly executed, that it is fraudulent, or that the creator lacked capacity, was under undue influence, or was coerced. As an experienced Missouri trust litigation lawyer will explain, proving that a trust is invalid can be difficult. It’s important to work with experienced counsel who can help ensure your interests are protected.
- Vague language. Another type of trust litigation is a trust construction action. The reason that a trust construction action may be initiated is if there is language in the trust that is confusing. For example, the trustee may interpret the language to mean one thing, while a beneficiary may interpret it means something totally different and incompatible. To sort it out, the trustee or the beneficiary could petition the court so that the judge will determine the meaning of the language. The judge will seek to figure out the intent of the trust creator.
Legal Standing to Initiate Trust Litigation in Missouri
Just because you have concerns about something related to a trust does not mean that you have the legal right to seek redress in court. Only those with legal standing have that right. Legal standing refers to a person right to bring or defend a lawsuit. When it comes to trust litigation, generally, only the trustee, beneficiaries, and remainder beneficiaries have standing to initiate litigation. However, it depends on the issue to be litigated. Contact an experienced trust litigation attorney in Missouri who can let you know how to proceed with to address your concerns.
Initiating Trust Litigation in Missouri
If you have concerns of an issue related to the trust, contact an experienced trust litigation attorney serving Maine who can evaluate your case and determine the best way to proceed. Trust litigation is complicated, requiring the counsel of someone with experience in this highly specialized area.