Trustees of Non-Massachusetts Trusts May be Subject to Jurisdiction of Massachusetts Courts for Some Claims Related to the Administration of the Trust

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Under the Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code, the Probate Court generally cannot "entertain proceedings" concerning the administration of trusts "registered or having [their] principal place of administration in another state." But does that mean a Massachusetts court cannot hear breach of fiduciary duty and other related claims against a Massachusetts-based trustee where the situs of the trust is another state? The Superior Court considered this question in Curran v. Berkshire Hills Bancorp, No. 1784CV03580-BLS2, 2018 WL 3431892 (Mass. Super. Ct. May 24, 2018), when the beneficiaries of a Vermont trust brought claims of breach of fiduciary duty and violation of Chapter 93A (the Massachusetts consumer protection statute) against the trustee, a Massachusetts bank. Over the bank's objections, the court allowed the suit to proceed, drawing a distinction between actions seeking an order instructing or compelling a trustee to act in a certain way concerning the ongoing management of trust assets, on the one hand, and actions seeking damages under a tort-based theory for the trustee's prior conduct concerning the trust, on the other, as in the present case. Similarly, the court found that, since the beneficiaries brought claims against the trustee itself rather than claims regarding the status or disposition of trust assets (such as for an accounting or other relief concerning ongoing administration of the trust), asserting jurisdiction over those claims in Massachusetts would not raise the potential to disrupt or disrespect any pending Vermont proceedings concerning the administration of the trust.

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