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The Various Types of Trust Disputes

July 31, 2020 CSBB Blog

While careful estate planning helps, some trust disputes are simply unavoidable. Unfortunately, these disputes can consume a great deal of time and resources if they are not handled properly. If you or your family is engaged in a major dispute, an experienced Palm Beach County trust dispute attorney can help you get it resolved quickly. 

Disputes Over the Validity of the Trust

Some of the most common disputes are those that attack the validity of the trust itself. These types of issues fall into one or more of the following categories: 

  • Lack of formalities. Unless certain formalities are observed when the trust is created, it may be declared invalid under Florida law. For example, the trust must be signed by the person creating it and witnessed. 
  • Lack of capacity. The person creating the trust must be of sound mind when the trust was created. In other words, they need to be able to understand what the trust means and what legal effect it will have. Disputes claiming that the creator lacked capacity often arise if they were suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or some other mental illness. 
  • Undue influence. You can also challenge a trust by claiming that it is the product of undue influence. In these situations, the person disputing the trust is claiming that someone unfairly and inappropriately persuaded the creator to set up the trust in a certain way to the disadvantage of others. This type of dispute is more subjective than arguing that the trust is invalid due to a lack of formalities or a lack of capacity. 

Many of these issues can also arise in situations where the trust has been modified. Challengers may try to argue that the decedent did not have the mental capacity to make the change, the change was the result of undue influence, or the changes did not comply with Florida law. 

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Another common dispute involves the action or inaction of the trustee. Trustees have a fiduciary obligation, which is a legal obligation to administer the trust according to the terms of the trust agreement and manage the assets to the benefit of the beneficiaries. A trustee can breach their fiduciary duty if they fail to honor the terms of the trust, mismanage its assets, or engage in waste. 

Disputes alleging that the trustee has breached their fiduciary duty can be quite complicated, and can often be a strategic move with ulterior motives. Generally speaking, trustees have some latitude in administering the trust, such as how they manage an investment fund. Claiming that the trustee has breached their fiduciary duty may just be an attempt to have them removed and replaced with someone who may be more generous to certain beneficiaries. 

Disputes Over Distribution of Property

Most disputes are ultimately about the distribution of the estate property – someone believes that they were going to inherit something and did not, or one or more of the beneficiaries believe that the property is being distributed unfairly. Oftentimes, these disputes will focus on ambiguities in the trust agreement that are capable of misinterpretation. 

Call a Palm Beach County Trust Dispute Attorney for Help

We know how difficult it can be when dealing with a trust dispute, but we have the knowledge, skill, and experience you need to get it resolved. If you or your family is facing a trust dispute, contact Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun online or by calling us at 561-626-2101 or toll-free at 800-226-1484 to discuss your case and how we can help. We work with clients throughout the state of Florida.

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