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  1. #1
    mickey69 is offline Junior Member
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    Difficulty in Removal of Trustee

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Missouri

    What kind of burden does a beneficiary have in filing for removal of trustee on basis of breach of fiduciary duty? I'm a paralegal myself, but not very familiar with this type of law and the attorneys I work with are already bleeding me on bills at this point.

    Our grandparents left a successful farm to four beneficiaries. My share was inherited after my father died. The trustee did not provide annual reports, as stipulated by the trust. After requesting these multiple times, he still failed to provide a report for my grandmother's trust before her death. His attorney (and the trust attorney) state that they do not have to report on trust assets before her death because she was using her bank account as a personal account at the time. We feel that assets were moved on the day of her death.

    He is attempting to sell our real estate by auction soon, so we have an attorney who will file for us and probably file for lis pendens to stop the sale. But how hard is it to get something accomplished on something along this line?

    After going through so much turmoil throughout the past year, I don't want to stop until I see every bank account my grandmother had with canceled checks. But figuring out a way to get that is another story. He is using trust assets to pay his attorney, who is assisting him (not us). We don't have a majority to remove him, as his sister is siding with him. The whole thing stinks because I really don't have the capital necessary to litigate. Are there any lawsuit loan companies that will loan on something like this? It's a multi million dollar estate. My share of the land is around $300k, but there is much more involved.

    Thanks for any suggestions -
  2. #2
    seniorjudge is offline Senior Member
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    Q: What kind of burden does a beneficiary have in filing for removal of trustee on basis of breach of fiduciary duty?

    A: It is an extremely onerous burden and you must use a lawyer.
    There are two rules for success:

    (1) Never tell everything you know.
  3. #3
    Dandy Don is offline Senior Member
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    You don't need to remove him yet although you may want to do that in the future.

    Did you make your request for the accounting statement in writing or just verbally? Consult with a Missouri trust law attorney to find out whether their state allows a beneficiary to request an accounting statement (and possibly trust income tax forms) for every year the trust has been in existence by sending the trustee a certified letter (or having your attorney do it) or not--some states allow beneficiaries to request this information and some states do not.

    Did you ever receive a copy of the trust?

    Does the trust require a trustee's bond be posted or does it exempt the trustee from having to do that?

    Is the trustee related to your grandparents? If so, how?

    Who are the 4 beneficiaries of the trust--your siblings and who else?

    Why are you wanting to stop the sale of the real estate? Shouldn't you let that go through so that you will have the financial resources to be able to pay for attorney fees to bring breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against the trustee?

    DANDY DON IN OKLAHOMA (tiekh@yahoo.com)
  4. #4
    mickey69 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks for the responses. I'm just feeling nervous and want this handled, I think. I've been patient this long, I just need to hold out a bit longer.

    Here are the responses to your questions, Don:

    Did you make your request for the accounting statement in writing or just verbally?

    In writing, under the direction of an attorney. This was mailed via certified mail. However, they did not provide responsive reports. My uncle managed to skirt around giving us any indication of what was in the trust while my grandmother was alive. Instead, the report starts the day after her death. His reason for this was "because the trust account was personal." Umm, yeah. Whatever.

    Consult with a Missouri trust law attorney to find out whether their state allows a beneficiary to request an accounting statement (and possibly trust income tax forms) for every year the trust has been in existence by sending the trustee a certified letter (or having your attorney do it) or not--some states allow beneficiaries to request this information and some states do not.

    Missouri statutes don't specify that we can request tax statements (another weakness in estate law here ... we seem to be finding every one of them with this thing). However, early in the process we did request these and were provided tax statements for everything ... except my grandmother's trust, of course. That's obviously where the money was - -


    Did you ever receive a copy of the trust?

    Yes - I have a great set of file materials at this point. Being a paralegal for so long taught me to save every scrap of paper and record notes on every conversation.


    Does the trust require a trustee's bond be posted or does it exempt the trustee from having to do that?

    No bond is required.


    Is the trustee related to your grandparents? If so, how?

    He is their son. He is both a beneficiary and the trustee. My father was the oldest and was the original trustee, but he died five years ago. He told me that he was unable to get my uncle to release any farm records to him, including any annual reports. He resigned as trustee because he did not want to have to deal with him, giving my uncle license to move full speed ahead. In a way, it is better that my dad is not involved and that we are taking the reigns, however. He did not like conflict and would have settled for the crumbs. We, on the other hand, don't mind it a bit.


    Who are the 4 beneficiaries of the trust--your siblings and who else?

    My siblings, two aunts and my uncle represent all parties involved.


    Why are you wanting to stop the sale of the real estate? Shouldn't you let that go through so that you will have the financial resources to be able to pay for attorney fees to bring breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against the trustee?

    The sale of the real estate would represent the close of the estate, in my mind. Since he represents that the land is all we are entitled to, its sale and the proceeds from that would close the estate. In addition, we caught wind that he is the prime bidder. On the auction website, he states that any sale pends his approval. There is no reserve - and while I know that is fairly customary - we feel that he is making an attempt to buy back the farm at the lowest possible price, where sale to himself is the only possibility he will "approve." We therefore want to stop the sale, as we are not willing to give up our share in the land at this time.

    Here is the other key element. When examining the property last year, I found a large test windmill/turbine. We started asking around and found out that our land happens to be tested as the absolute windiest place in the entire state. I contacted wind energy companies, who confirmed interest in the area. We feel that my uncle already has a lease arrangement in place for when he buys the farm back. However, the energy companies will not do business so long as the estate is in flux and there are questions. We also know that the necessary conservation work has been done on the land, which would allow the energy companies to lease it. We've done our homework, but now it's a matter of forcing him to lay his cards on the table. And we are wondering if litigation will be the only way to do it. Whatever works, I guess ...
  5. #5
    truthandhonor is offline Member
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    Some attormies will take a case on "DEFERRED PAY." Meaning, that they are getting paid by the hour but will not get paid until the case is over. The key to this, and it worked for me, is that the estate is large enough so the attorney you interview can see that there is something there so he can get paid.

    Most who review the case cannot see anything if the trustee is hiding what he's doing, but like you, I have land at stake. A great deal of land that has an estimated value. Perhaps when a prospective attorney sees there is land, a viable working farm, and such assets, you can ask him to take this on Deferred Pay. Hope this helps.
  6. #6
    mickey69 is offline Junior Member
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    That helps a great deal. I have sufficient land interest to cover the cost of litigation, if necessary. Thanks for the suggestion. I have an appointment with the attorney this afternoon and will discuss this option.
  7. #7
    truthandhonor is offline Member
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    You're very welcome. Another thing that helped me was reading the Probate Code particular to my state since each state has its own code. In that code, there should be listed the determining factors of the duties of trustees and the rights of a beneficiary. Yes benefiicaries do have rights!

    I interviewed several lawyers as was suggested in this forum (thank you Dandy Don) and found one I believe I can trust. The trustee may have the right to use the money in the trust (check the wording in the trust) to fight the beneficiary which is sad because ultimatly, the parents dying wishes may not be carried out as a result. So find what ammo you have relative to the code and list the factsl ike the pro you are so your attorney should want to dust off the guns of justice on your behalf.

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