Was the transaction in question fair to the beneficiary?
Once a jury finds that the trustee has a duty, in many situations the burden shifts to the trustee to prove that he or she acted appropriately. The Court will first ask the jury to determine whether the transaction was fair and equitable to the trust beneficiaries.
Did the trustee make reasonable use of the beneficiary's confidence?
In this element, the jury may examine whether all relevant information pertaining to the transaction was fully and fairly disclosed to the beneficiary. A trustee must act with the highest integrity toward the trust beneficiaries.
Did the Trustee act with the utmost good faith and exercise the most scrupulous honesty toward the beneficiary?
As you can see, the questions posed to a jury in a breach of fiduciary duty case are straightforward -- and tends to favor trust beneficiaries (which goes hand in hand with the responsibility placed on a trustee).
Did the trustee place the beneficiary's interests before his/her own and not use the position to gain any advantage?
A trustee must place the interests of a beneficiary above his / her own, even if to the trustee's disadvantage. Any benefit gained by a trustee, if it results in disadvantage to a beneficiary, may result in violation of this fiduciary duty element.
Did the trustee fully and fairly disclose all important information concerning the transaction in question to the beneficiary?
If the trustee withholds key information affecting the transaction from the beneficiary, a jury may find the trustee breached his or her fiduciary duty.
Beneficiaries who have suffered a loss as a result of a trustee's breach of the fiduciary duty may have a cause of action to recover damages from the trustee. A beneficiary's allegation of breach of fiduciary duty against a trustee may also give rise to a claim for punitive damages against the trustee. Beneficiaries in Texas have broad means to uncover information from the trustee (such as a suit to compel an accounting) before they decide to sue for damages. Likewise, Trustees must be cautious, diligent, and careful that they act in the trust beneficiaries' best interest whenever transacting with trust property.
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