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Category: What We Do

Florida Trust Accountings–recent case sheds light on TRUST APPEALS

In the News May 9, 2021

An April 29, 2021 appellate opinion sheds light on Florida Trust Accountings and final orders. Most Florida trustees know that you can give a six month “limitation notice” to a beneficiary. Most beneficiaries don’t really understand that you may only have 6 months to sue for breach of trust. This recent case discusses the “finality” of an order on a Florida Trust Accounting. That final order can’t be changed except under three very unique scenarios. Keep reading to learn more about trust appeals. (For a free legal video on trust accountings in the State of Florida, CLICK HERE.) Florida Trust Law on Beneficiary Rights — but watch the clock ! First and foremost, trust beneficiaries have a lot of rights in Florida. You can read all about those rights under the Florida Trust Code. That’s chapter 736 of Florida Statutes. To read about the obligations and duties of a Florida Trustee, read Trust Code Statutes 736.0801-736.0817. As a beneficiary, you have a right to know who your trustee is and to a complete copy of the trust document. That includes any amendments, restatements or changes. You can also obtain annual trust accountings. A trustee cannot operate or run the trust in secret. There needs to be full disclosure. But, trust beneficiaries can’t wait forever to exercise their rights. Sometimes you have 4 years to sue for a breach of trust. And sometimes only 6 months. If you are involved in a court case, any order from a judge may have […]

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Florida Trust Code — what you need to know

FAQs Apr 19, 2021

The Florida Trust Code is a set of statutes. It sets the groundwork for all Florida trust matters. Everything from the trustee-beneficiary relationship. Creating and ending trusts. And, of course, judicial proceedings like lawsuits and removal actions. To get a plain-English background of this body of Florida law, keep reading. We will point you to the most important parts of the trust code. Whether you are a beneficiary, trustee, or adult child of a beneficiary or trust creator. And, yes, if you got cut out of a trust, there’s information for you, as well. If you would like to see a number of focused, informative Florida Trust & Probate Videos for free. Click HERE for an outstanding video library on important Florida estate and trust legal topics. Now, let’s show you what to read in the trust code, and we’ll name specific statutes for your to read. This is “user-friendly”. There is a link to more information on the part we are writing about, so you can read or learn more on a particular topic if you want. The Background First, you should know the background. The Florida Trust Code is a set of statutes. These statutes are found at Florida Statutes Chapter 736. The trust code is similar to the Florida Probate Code and the Florida Guardianship Code. How? They set forth what our legislature wants you to know about those particular topics. Why mention them? Because they can all interconnect. If you have a guardianship of a wealth […]

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Challenge a Will Florida

What We Do Apr 17, 2021

Challenge a Will Florida is a plain-English Florida probate commentary. Get some thoughts about a will challenge. Maybe you are a family member who got cut out of a last minute will. Or, a beneficiary under a prior will that was changed just before death. We have previously posted a FREE WILL CONTEST VIDEO for heirs to view. Now, if you have been dis-inherited or have questions about a last minute will change, keep reading. (To learn about a probate contingency fee, CLICK HERE.) Start with the Basics Challenging a will in Florida typically means that you object to the validity of a will. You believe a will is not valid. To contest the will, to challenge it, you need to go to Probate Court. Why? Well, most people are simply not going to agree to set aside a will if you ask them politely. So, you have to file a Petition in the Probate Court for the county where the person was a resident. If there is no probate proceeding, that means you have to open up a probate. That’s done by filing a petition for administration. You will tell the court whether you believe there was a valid prior will or no valid will at all. When there is a valid prior will, you have to file it or offer it up. If you have a valid will that was lost or destroyed, that’s a different petition. Remember that where there is no valid will, heirs inherit under […]

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Florida Trustee Defenses

What We Do Apr 16, 2021
post about Florida Trustee Defenses

If you are a trustee, have you been sued? If you have been sued by one of your trust beneficiaries, you betta know your Florida trustee defenses. Why? Here’s the background that you NEED to understand. Start with the Basics A lot of people become a successor trustee in Florida. Some of you are well -intentioned, decent people, but ……you know nothing about running a trust. Admittedly, you are in way over your head. And when you were asked to RESIGN, you just can’t give up the power. You say that you want to adhere to “so-and-so’s” wishes or intent. That’s OK. You mean well. Stay tuned…we’ll get through this. Many times, a Florida resident will have a POUR OVER WILL that leaves everything to a revocable trust when they die. And when that Florida resident dies, there needs to be a successor trustee for that revocable trust. Which is now IRrevocable. Being a trustee is serious business. And if you have been sued by a trust beneficiary, you should know all your Florida Trustee Defenses. Let’s talk about helping defend a Florida Trustee. Florida Trustee Defenses First, look at the trust document. The trust itself may do two things. It may change the normal standard of liability for a trustee when you make a mistake. The trust document, for example, may say that you are only liable for “intentional or reckless acts.” That’s actually good for you. It alters the standard of care that ordinarily you face in Florida […]

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Florida Removal of Trustee

What We Do Apr 15, 2021
post about Florida Removal of Trustee

Beneficiaries of Florida trusts have a lot of rights ! And, let’s face it, trustees have a lot of duties which they owe to their beneficiaries. A trustee agrees to, volunteers to, be loyal and prudent with their beneficiaries. No secret fees or self dealing. No stealing or civil theft. So, what does a beneficiary do when they learn that their trustee is acting badly? You could ask a Probate Court judge to suspend the trustee. Or you could sue for damages. But, many beneficiaries want Florida removal of trustee. Let’s see how this is done, in plain-English. Steps to Removing Your Florida Trustee There are two ways to remove a trustee without a judge and a trust lawsuit. Removing a trustee can start with a letter asking the trustee to resign. To step down. But, does that really work? I guess the next question that you have to ask yourself is. How long are you going to give the trustee to decide? Most trustees don’t want to resign. If that happens, and there’s no trustee resignation, then you are left with removal. Removal can be done if permitted by the trust document. Sometimes, Florida trusts have specific removal provisions. For example. A majority of the beneficiaries might be able to remove a trustee. Or, sometimes it says that you need the consent or agreement of all trust beneficiaries. Let’s say that your Florida trust document does not have removal language . Now what? Florida Trust Code Well, before you […]

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Florida Breach of Fiduciary Duty

FAQs Apr 15, 2021

A Florida breach of fiduciary duty is serious stuff. It can bring damages to beneficiaries or an estate or a trust. And a whole lot of trouble to a bad trustee or personal representative or POA. We have previously written about excessive compensation and removing or suspending a trustee. We have also written about this topic of FIDUCIARY DUTY before. Now, let’s lay it all out there in plain English. And from a standpoint that other Florida Legal Blogs may not take . What is a Fiduciary? Before we define Florida Breach of Fiduciary Duty, let’s make sure you have the background. First, a trustee owes DUTIES to her beneficiaries. Same for a PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE. Trustees and personal representatives are fiduciaries. Fiduciaries are those who volunteer to perform certain tasks for others. I say “volunteer” because no one can be forced to serve others or be a fiduciary. Even if you are nominated or named in a will or trust. If you don’t want to serve, decline. Fiduciaries, most of the time, are entitled to reasonable compensation. A Power of Attorney, also called an attorney-in-fact, is also a fiduciary. Don’t be confused. Even though the Power of Attorney Law uses the word “agent”, a POA is a fiduciary. Standards of a Fiduciary There are certain “rules of the game.” Standards. If a personal representative or trustee acts badly or steals money or takes secret fees, they can be SURCHARGED. But civil theft is not necessary for a fiduciary to be […]

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How to Fight Guardianship (Florida)

What We Do Apr 14, 2021
post about How to Fight Guardianship (Florida)

Regrettably, there are a lot of “contested” guardianships. Every day, it seems, Florida Probate Judges must make difficult decisions. Guardianships have a couple of purposes. First, they determine whether someone needs assistance and protection if they are incapacitated. An aging or afflicted Florida resident may seem fine on the outside. But they may not be able, in the eyes of a judge, to exercise all their rights. They, and their property, money, may need management + protection. Second, guardianships often confirm or appoint someone to take care of that person who is vulnerable. A guardian or a Power of Attorney, or maybe a trustee for just the property. Many times, family members “fight” over who will control mom or dad. And their money. We have previously provided commentary on FLORIDA GUARDIANSHIPS. Now, let’s focus on how to fight guardianship Florida. Understanding Guardianship Law There are 4 really important things that you can read for free to understand Florida guardianship law. And learn how to fight Florida Guardianship. First, read the Guardianship Code. Chapter 744 of the Florida Statutes sets forth the law of Florida Guardianship. It can explain the TYPES of guardianships. Many times, people will file a motion or petition for EMERGENCY TEMPORARY GUARDIAN. This often upsets family members who are not given “notice” of this until a judge enters an order. There are also “plenary” guardianships. Or guardianships over just the property. Or, just the person. One of the most important rules is to file an appearance in […]

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Lost Will Florida — how do you get it probated?

What We Do Apr 13, 2021
post about Lost Will Florida — how do you get it probated?

What do you do if a Florida will is lost? Well, it’s possible to have that lost will probated. You need to know one statute, one rule and one case. We have previously written about Lost Wills before. Now, let’s re-visit this subject and talk about what steps you need to take. How do you probate a Lost Will Florida? The Rules for Lost Wills There is a statute on probating a lost will. The entire Florida Probate Code is online and may be read for free. Zero in on Fla. Stat. 733.207. First, you need to have STANDING to probate a lost will. That means that you need some connection to the probate or the will. If you are a beneficiary or a nominated personal representative under the lost will. That can create standing. Next, you need to reveal the terms of the lost will precisely. You have to “establish” the will in “full and precise” terms. This means that you need some certainty. If you have a copy, that is a great start. But, there’s a lot more to do. Grab your cellphone or start writing emails. You need to prove the contents by two disinterested witnesses. The exception is if you have a “correct copy”, then one witness is OK. Finally, read the Florida Probate Rules. There is a specific rule on lost wills. Read Rule 5.510. You need to file a proper Petition. Take These Steps for a Lost Will Florida There is a 2012 5th […]

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How To Ask Your Trustee For Money or Trust Funds

What We Do Apr 11, 2021

How do you ask your trustee for money? Let’s say that mom or dad or grandma set up a trust for you with $10 Million. You want money, right? So, how do you ask your trustee for money or trust funds? We have previously written about a TRUSTEE’S DISCRETION, when your trustee refuses to give you money. We have also commented on how to appeal a trustee’s decision to NOT give you money. Let’s focus on how to ask for money from your trustee. 5 Tips On How To Ask Your Trustee for Money First, understand the playing field. Read your trust document ! It will tell you the standards or the rules of the game. Like, how money may be distributed to you. Or how often. And for what purposes. If the trust says that you can request money for a residence, consider this. If you don’t have a job, I doubt your trustee will buy you a beach house in Nantucket. Or a ski chalet in Aspen. But, hey, maybe they will. 2nd, put it in writing. Emails are fine. 3rd, cite or refer to the part of the trust that makes you believe you can get money. Your trustee should be reading the trust, so you better know it, too. 4th, give an explanation. Help your trustee understand why you want or need the money. If you want a new car, why do you want to purchase a Tesla versus renting a less expensive vehicle? 5th and […]

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How Do I Appeal A Trustee’s Decision?

What We Do Apr 11, 2021

Trust beneficiaries know that many Florida trusts give lots of DISCRETION to a trustee. That discretion may include giving trust money to you. Or not. What does a trust beneficiary do when they want to appeal a trustee’s decision? How is this done? Let’s assume that you asked a trustee for money. And she said “no!” 2 Things Every Trust Beneficiary Must Read So, there are 2 things which every trust beneficiary should understand. The Trust Document itself and the Florida Trust Code. You can also watch a FREE FLORIDA TRUST VIDEO on trust administration + beneficiary rights. The Trust Document itself is the legal document which creates the trust. It’s like a will. It will tell the trustee, who runs your trust, what to do with the money at every step of the way. That document also tells you how long the trust will last. Perhaps most importantly for a trust beneficiary, it tells you how to get money. Or, put another way. It tells the trustee under what circumstances money from the trust may be distributed to a beneficiary. Trust funds may be used for your benefit. Such as making distributions to your spouse or children if permissible. Or directly to your service providers. This can include paying your health insurance, auto payment, mortgage, or credit card bills. So, what do you do if you asked your trustee for money and they said “no” ? Here’s 5 steps on how to appeal your trustee’s decision 5 Steps Every […]

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