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David Di Pietro
Managing Partner, Probate Attorney

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Removing a Beneficiary from a Trust in Florida

A trust is a legal document that enables individuals (grantors) to manage and distribute their assets for the benefit of specific beneficiaries. Sometimes, situations arise where beneficiaries need to be removed from a trust.

The grantor may make any necessary changes to the trust document with the guidance of an attorney. However, once the grantor is deceased removing a beneficiary becomes more complicated. In Florida, an experienced trust attorney will assist you in navigating the complex legal guidelines to ensure a fair and just outcome for all parties.

Main Factors Involved in Removing a Beneficiary

Legal, ethical, and personal considerations influence the decision to remove a beneficiary. The following factors play a role in these considerations:

  • Terms of the trust document- Some trust documents outline circumstances where a beneficiary may be removed. Thus, it remains vital to thoroughly read the document. If a beneficiary does not meet the “expectations” spelled out in the trust, they may lose their status as beneficiary.
  • Change in circumstances- A beneficiary may have a change in circumstance such as marriage, divorce, birth, death, or financial hardship. This may affect the beneficiary’s relationship to the trust.
  • Conflict among beneficiaries- Occasionally, one person may disrupt the entire harmony of the trust relationship. When that happens, the other beneficiaries may want to explore removing that beneficiary.
  • Beneficiary misconduct or breach of trust– If one of the beneficiaries mismanages the trust, or commits fraud, remaining beneficiaries should take action to protect the trust.

Basically, any time the trust becomes detrimental to the beneficiaries, action must be taken to preserve the integrity of the trust. If this happens, contact an experienced probate attorney immediately.

Process to Remove a Beneficiary in Florida

In Florida, the process to remove a beneficiary from a trust depends on a few factors. First of all, trust documents usually spell out the terms for removal or addition of beneficiaries. If that information is clear, trustees follow the document’s terms. Second, if the document fails to list reasons to remove a beneficiary, then Florida Trust Code must be followed.

Florida Trust Code 736.0706 states the legal reasons for removing a trustee (the person overseeing the trust). The court may remove a trustee if:

  • The trustee has committed a serious breach of trust.
  • The lack of cooperation among the cotrustees substantially impairs the administration of the trust.
  • Due to the unfitness, unwillingness, or persistent failure of the trustee to administer the trust effectively, the court determines that removal of the trustee best serves the interests of the beneficiaries; or,
  • There has been a substantial change of circumstances or removal is requested by all of the qualified beneficiaries and is not consistent with a material purpose of the trust, and a suitable cotrustee or successor trustee is available.

Due to the complexity of trust issues, it remains vital to obtain legal assistance when removing a trustee, or beneficiary.

What Steps Should I Take if I am Removed as Beneficiary on a Trust?

Sadly, manipulative people may exert undue influence on a grantor (the person writing the trust). This may happen to vulnerable, elderly people. Unfortunately, you may not realize this has happened to your loved one until they pass away. If a person has been unjustly removed from a trust document based on undue influence they may consider the following steps:

  1. Consult an attorney immediately.
  2. Contest the trust.
  3. Gather evidence.
  4. Burden of proof is yours
  5. Statute of limitations…Do not wait. Your attorney will advise you about the time constraints.
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