Boca Raton Trust Litigation Attorney
Compassionate and Experienced Legal Counsel for Trust Dispute Resolution
As one of the preeminent estate planning firms in Boca Raton, we at the Ellis Law Group see that an increasing number of people are using revocable and irrevocable trusts as mechanisms to dispose of their assets at death. Trusts not only provide for asset management during life, they can also facilitate the avoidance of the probate process. Having said that, trusts are in many ways “will substitutes” and so trusts and trust administration can be fraught with the same disputes as are found in probate matters. If you or a loved one is struggling with issues or inconsistencies related to a trust, a Boca Raton trust litigation attorney at our firm can assist you. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can protect your rights.
When a trust has “testamentary aspects”—that is, when the trust dictates who gets the property upon the death of the settlor—the trust must be executed in the same manner as a will. In addition, Florida courts have explicitly held time and again that the evaluation of claims of incapacity and undue influence in cases involving trusts is no different than the analysis employed in reviewing the drafting and execution of wills. For this reason, trust contests—lawsuits which are initiated for the purpose of challenging the validity of a trust—are not uncommon and may be an available avenue for ensuring that an improperly created trust does not dictate the distribution of a loved one’s property.
As with wills, a court does not review the validity of a trust as a matter of course. Indeed, the courts are not involved in the administration of a trust at all, as it is a non-judicial process by default. Only by bringing suit to challenge the validity of a trust instrument can an interested person obtain relief. And, as with wills, the time period in which such a person must bring a claim may be limited to a period as short as six months to file a claim.
An experienced Boca Raton trust litigation attorney at our firm is available for consultation regarding your potential rights and interests in a trust.
Fiduciary Litigation and Accounting Disputes
Under Florida law, a trustee is a fiduciary who owes a myriad of duties to trust beneficiaries. A trustee’s duties include a duty of care, a duty of loyalty, a duty of prudent administration, a duty to invest prudently, a duty to keep beneficiaries informed, a duty to account and a qualified prohibition on self-dealing. Trustees are afforded great authority and control over the assets of a trust and, in many instances, can make decisions which bind the trust without any court approval and without the beneficiaries’ consent.
Given the great power, responsibility, and complexity that inheres in serving as trustee, situations arise in which the trustee proves to be unqualified for the role or engages in conduct which constitutes a breach of the duties owed to beneficiaries. This can result in waste, the squandering of assets, inefficient administration, and the accrual of unnecessary expenses and fees.
While trusts are designed to be capable of administration without judicial oversight, Florida law provides for interested persons to seek relief from our courts in cases of breach of trust and maladministration. Depending on the circumstances, such relief can include the removal of the trustee, an accounting, and surcharge.
Of all the duties and obligations a trustee owes, the duty to account is perhaps the most tangible since it often involves the preparation and dissemination of a physical report. The Florida Trust Code provides that, regardless of a trust’s terms, a trustee must account to qualified beneficiaries on no less than an annual basis. This default rule cannot be modified by trust language to the contrary.
When this duty to account arises and when the accounting is “due” are both issues that can only be resolved with respect to the facts and circumstances of each individual case. Having said that, there are cases in which the trustee of an irrevocable trust has not accounted to beneficiaries for many years or at all. In these cases, an action against the trustee to compel an accounting may be appropriate. A recipient of an accounting may also disagree with the substance of the accounting: the accounting evinces egregious expenditures, legal fees, and fiduciary fees; the accounting does not identify all assets; or the accounting shows the imprudent investment of trust assets. Even when an accounting is timely furnished, the substance of the accounting may give rise to one or more claims for relief. Because accountings can be accompanied by notices which limit the amount of time a recipient has to seek relief, it is important that any questions about an accounting be timely brought to the attention of trusted legal counsel.
Contact a Boca Raton Trust Litigation Attorney Today to Discuss Your Legal Options
Ellis Law Group has the experience and knowledge to handle fiduciary litigation and accounting matters stemming from the administration of revocable and irrevocable trusts. If you or a member of your family would like to dispute the terms of a trust, we are available right now to assist you. Contact us online or by phone at 561-910-7500 to schedule a consultation with a Boca Raton trust litigation attorney at our firm.