Skip to Content

Understanding Trust Litigation in Florida

July 8, 2022 Estate Litigation

Whenever there are disputes surrounding the distribution or administration of a deceased person’s trust assets, trust litigation may be inevitable. Trust litigation involves challenging the trust itself, or a dispute interpreting the trust’s terms in a similar way that probate litigation involves challenging a will or interpreting the terms of a will during probate.

Comparatively, you would see probate and estate litigation within the probate proceedings. That is litigation pertaining to either the person’s will or some type of creditor claim, where the claimant seeks reimbursement for some type of debt that exists when the person passed away. Trust litigation involves a dispute concerning the decedent’s trust, which is an independent action. It does not take place within the probate proceeding pertaining to someone’s will; rather, pursuant to Section 736.0201(1), Florida Statutes, trust litigation is commenced by filing a separate complaint. In some counties, that complaint is assigned to the probate divisions, in others the trust action will be litigated in the county’s civil division.

Unfortunately, trust litigation can be complex and time-consuming, and there can be lifelong relationships at risk, especially if the documents are vague and/or ambiguous. 

How Long Do I Have to Sue Under the Trust in Florida?

Timing is critical in virtually any type of action. Each state has a set legal amount of time during which you can file an action concerning the validity or interpretation of a trust, known as statutes of limitations. In Florida, the statute of limitations sets out the time limit for an action contesting the validity of a revocable trust. Your time limit may be as short as six months if you were served with a certain type of notice, or four years, so it is important that you contact a Florida and Palm Beach County trust litigation lawyer at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun as soon as possible.

How Can a Trust be Contested in Florida?

While it is relatively common to contest a will in Florida, a trust may also be contested in the same manner. In certain instances, you may also have to challenge a will as a condition precedent to challenging the trust. Just as you should not attempt to contest a Florida will on your own, you should not attempt to contest a trust alone either. When you work together with a Florida trust litigation attorney at our firm, we can recommend whether or not your situation may warrant contesting the trust.

Are There Remedies for Trust Violations?

Yes, there are a variety of remedies available for trust violations (known as breaches) in Florida, most are statutory in nature. Some of the more important remedies include: 

  1. Removal of the trustee. Under Florida Statutes, Section 736.0706, the court may remove a trustee for a number of reasons, including if the trustee has committed a serious breach of trust, the persistent failure of the trustee to administer the trust effectively, removal of the trustee best serves the interests of the beneficiaries, or the court finds that removal of the trustee best serves the interests of all of the beneficiaries and is not inconsistent with a material purpose of the trust, and a suitable successor trustee is available. Case law has also developed a number of reasons a trustee can be removed.
  2. Order an accounting. Florida law is very strict regarding accounting requirements. The Trustee must provide beneficiaries with a detailed accounting that complies with the relevant statutes from the date of acceptance and at least annually and at the end of the trust or a change of trustees. The trust accounting consists of important information, including all asset transactions and compensation paid to the trustee or the trustee’s agents.
  3. Demand and receive payment. Beneficiaries often have compelling tax reasons to demand distribution. Trustees who fail to exercise good income tax planning can be in breach of their fiduciary duties to manage the trust assets in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
  4. Compel trustees to make distributions that have been improperly withheld. 
  5. Appoint a receiver or special fiduciary. The court can appoint a receiver or special fiduciary to administer the trust in conjunction with other relief.
  6. Compel the trustee to perform any duty under the trust. The trustee, as a fiduciary, is obligated to perform all duties, follow all instructions, and basically fulfill the grantor’s intent. 
  7. Modify or terminate the trust. If following the trust instructions causes a law; for example, a new law, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to reform the trust or terminate it. Modification of an irrevocable trust is also allowed under certain circumstances. 

How Can a Florida and Palm Beach County Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Help You Resolve Your Trust Disputes?

Whether you are a settlor, a trustee, or a beneficiary, a Florida and Palm Beach County trust litigation lawyer at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun can help you if you are even suspicious that there may be a problem, accidental or otherwise, with the trust you are involved in. Our experienced team will take the time to help you make sure that the trust is written up correctly, or, if needed, we can draft a secure trust ourselves.

An Experienced and Skilled Florida and Palm Beach County Trust Litigation Lawyer Can Help You Avoid or Win Your Trust Litigation

Our attorneys have years of experience with trust litigation, and we can help you, too. Contact us today for your initial consultation.

Over 100 Awards & Recognitions