Trust Lawsuit — the basics
Do you know what you are doing? If you are a trustee of a Florida trust, or a beneficiary, do you know how to handle a trust lawsuit? Let’s explain the three “major,” or basic, types.
Want to learn the background first?
Want to learn the “backbone” of a Florida trust lawsuit? (If not, that’s OK!….go to the last section of this Florida Trust Legal Commentary).
If you want to better understand your trust lawsuit, consider reviewing these resources:
- Florida Trust Code — a list of Florida statutes dealing with trusts, trustees and beneficiaries.
- Trust Beneficiary Rights — bene’s have a lot more rights than they may realize, including a right to know what the trustee is doing with every dime ! Do you know how to ask for accountings and relevant information?
- Trustee’s Duties— a trustee is a fiduciary who has a big job. She can’t self-deal, hide the ball, refuse to disclose, or operate the trust in secret. But, trustees are entitled to a great defense if a trust bene sues them with a baseless lawsuit. Defending a trustee will eat up trust money, so everyone needs to be careful and cautious.
- 10 Steps to Family Trustee Excellence — this is an easy-2-read, plain English book that you can read in one sitting. It is great for both beneficiaries and trustees.
3 Types of a Trust Lawsuit
Now, some trust litigators may disagree that trust lawsuits can be broken down into only 3 categories. No argument here. You can always get more detailed. Candidly, it’s understandable that there may be way more. But, for our purpose, I am going to explain, in a very broad way, the 3 types of trust lawsuits which you may see in Florida.
- Trust Contest — a trust contest or trust challenge, objects to, or challenges, the validity of a trust, a trust amendment or a restatement of the trust. How? It depends. Undue influence? Insane delusion? Dementia? Heck, it can even challenge the revocation of a trust document. In Florida, there may be a statute of limitations of 6 months if the proper notice is given. So, whether you are a beneficiary suing, or a trustee who is sued, ask your trust litigator to watch that clock.
- Dec Actions — a trustee or a beneficiary may seek declaratory relief. Declaratory relief is specifically permitted by two statutes, one in the Trust Code ( 736.0201 ) . Many times, a trustee or a beneficiary needs to ask a judge what to do, or what should be done. Or, what the trust document really means.
- Breach — the last most common type of trust lawsuit is where a trustee is sued by a beneficiary for not doing their job. This typically is a breach of fiduciary duty or breach of trust case. In this type of lawsuit, the beneficiary needs to prove that the trustee breached her duties and that there was damage to the beneficiary or trust. Litigation point: remember, trust beneficiaries, if the trust was damaged, you, personally, most likely don’t get the damages ! Damages go back into the trust. But, there are some ways for a trust beneficiary to get their own, personal damages. Think these lawsuits are too expensive? Consider a contingency fee lawyer who is confident, experienced, and loves trying cases. No recovery, no fee.