Trust-Related Litigation in Florida

A trust is a common estate-planning document that is used to accomplish a number of things for the settlor (creator of the trust). One reason an estate planner might elect to create a trust is to allow their beneficiaries, heirs, and loved ones avoid the time and stress of probate court after he or she passes away. This does not mean, however, that trusts (and trustees) are immune from litigation. In Florida, a beneficiary of a trust has a number of remedies available to them if something goes wrong during the administration of a trust. 

Can the Validity of Trusts Be Challenged?

The answer to this question is, “yes.” There are a few grounds on which a beneficiary may contend that the trust is invalid. These include:

  • Lack of mental capacity on behalf of the settlor or grantor. Essentially, the person making the trust must understand what he or she is accomplishing with the document. More specifically, someone with testamentary capacity is aware of the assets being considered and the beneficiaries. 
  • Undue influence. The settlor must be free from coercion from another person who had some amount of control and power. 
  • Lack of accounting (by the trustee). Generally, beneficiaries have a right to examine the accounting records of the trust in order to determine whether the trustee is acting in accordance with the terms of the trust. 

What are the Obligations of the Trustee?

Broadly speaking, a trustee has a certain “fiduciary duty” to the trust’s beneficiaries and to the assets contained in the trust. Some ways a trustee can breach his or her fiduciary duty (also called “trustee malfeasance”) include:

  • Not providing the beneficiaries with property accounting
  • Not distributing assets in accordance with the trust’s terms
  • Not investing the trust’s assets in a financially responsible manner
  • Using the trust’s assets for the benefit of the trustee and to the detriment of the beneficiaries

Before you bring a challenge to a trust or trustee’s actions, you must have sufficient standing to bring litigation. In most cases, only beneficiaries may bring actions. Additionally, the action must come within the statute of limitations. 

Conclusion

Based upon your particular situation, you might want to contest the validity of the trust or challenge the actions of the appointed trustee. Either way, you will need the help of an established and experienced estate-planning attorney who can evaluate your circumstances and build a robust case. Luis E. Barreto & Associates has extensive experience litigating estate-planning documents. To discuss your options with us, please call our firm at 305-358-1771 to receive a free consultation.