Trust litigation cases involve formal legal disputes over the administration of trusts. In other words, if an individual believes they aren’t receiving a proper share of assets within the trust, or have a legal objection regarding the actions of a trustee, they may file a legal dispute.
Florida law provides that someone who successfully contests or disputes a trust, or the actions of a trustee, can recover attorney fees and costs of litigation from the trust estate.
The lawyers at Di Pietro Partners are AV Preeminent® rated trial attorneys with decades of experience representing both trustees and beneficiaries in trust litigation cases. If you have legal issues involving trusts in Florida, contact our legal team for a free and confidential consultation.
Overview Of Florida Trusts
Someone in charge of managing a trust is known as a trustee. On the other hand, individuals who receive benefits from the trust are called the beneficiaries. In Florida, trustees have many important duties and functions. For example, trustees are responsible for ensuring assets are handled in accordance with the wishes of the settlor. Trustees are also responsible for legal and financial aspects such as filing estate tax returns, and in some cases, paying the settlor’s debts.
A Florida trust must be signed with the same formalities as a will. The grantor or settlor is subject to the same requirements for legal capacity, competence, and being free of undue influence, as a person making a will. The language of a trust document, just as with a will, may be subject to varying interpretations.
The trust document is also subject to Florida’s elective share statute. The trustee of a trust owes the beneficiaries of the trust the same fiduciary duty that a personal representative owes to the heirs and beneficiaries of a probate estate.
Common Reasons for Trust Litigation
- Improper trust formation or failure to sign the trust with proper witnesses, notary, or other formal requirements
- Lack of capacity of the settlor
- Undue influence over the settlor
- Distribution of assets in violation of Florida Statutes, including the spousal elective share
- Judicial interpretation of unclear, confusing, or ambiguous language in the trust document
- Trust reformation or modification
- Self dealing
- Breach of fiduciary duty by the trustee
- Failure to make proper or timely distributions
- Failure to make proper or timely accountings
- Failure to administer the trust in the manner required by the trust document
- Failure to follow the prudent investor rule or making improper investments
- Excessive trustee compensation
Trust Beneficiary Disputes
As previously discussed, there are several reasons why someone may contest a trust. For example, in Florida, a beneficiary, or prospective beneficiary, may file a lawsuit against one who interferes with that beneficiary’s expected lifetime gift or distribution at death.
In this case, the prospective beneficiary must show that the deceased person had a specific intent to make the gift or distribution, and that the deceased person would have made the gift or distribution, but for the actions of the other individual.
Florida law provides that someone who successfully contests or disputes a trust, or the actions of a trustee, generally can recover the trust litigation attorney’s fees and costs of litigation from the trust estate. According to the Florida Legislature Section 736.1007:
“If the trustee of a revocable trust retains an attorney to render legal services in connection with the initial administration of the trust, the attorney is entitled to reasonable compensation for those legal services, payable from the assets of the trust…” (Florida Legislature 736.1007, 2018, Trustee’s attorney fees)”
In some circumstances, we may agree to represent someone contesting a trust, or the actions of a trustee, on a contingent fee basis.
Speak With a Trust Litigation Attorney Today
Di Pietro Partners has deep knowledge of trusts and extensive experience with the Florida probate process. Regardless of the complexity of a case, our lawyers are well equipped in guiding you through your legal issues.
The main office of our law firm is located in Fort Lauderdale, FL. We represent clients throughout Florida in probate and trust litigation cases.
If your legal issue occurred within the State of Florida, our lawyers can work with you regardless of your location. To speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your case, contact our offices today.