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West Palm Beach Trust Lawsuits: When is an Evidentiary Hearing Necessary to Determine Relevancy?

Uncategorized • Jul 22, 2020
post about West Palm Beach Trust Lawsuits: When is an Evidentiary Hearing Necessary to Determine Relevancy?

Are you involved in a West Palm Beach trust lawsuit? Have you, as the beneficiary of a Palm Beach trust, recently sued a Florida trustee? Can a Florida court compel the disclosure of trust information? What must the court consider if financial information from a nonparty is requested? How should I choose a West Palm Beach lawyer for my complex Florida trust battle?

Choosing a Palm Beach Trust Lawyer

If you are the beneficiary of a trust, or even the trustee of a Florida trust, you may find yourself in need of a trust lawyer. Trust litigation happens often and having a powerful trust attorney representing you is important.

When interviewing Florida lawyers for a trust lawsuit, you may want to consider how many years of experience the lawyer has practicing trust law. For example, has your lawyer just began practicing law or does he/she have over 20 years of experience like the partners at Pankauski Hauser Lazarus do.

Also, you may want to make sure that your trust lawyer is extremely familiar with Florida’s Trust Code and the Florida Statutes pertaining to trust and civil lawsuits in Florida.

Lastly, look for a lawyer who limits his or her practice. If trust and estate litigation and appeals is one of the firm’s main practice areas, the lawyers at the firm have probably been in front of a Florida judge in many other trust lawsuits.

Trust Lawsuits and Evidentiary Hearings

Florida trust lawsuits can involve many different issues and topics. For example, a lawsuit between a beneficiary and a trustee, regarding trust financials, may lead to an appeal over relevancy. A beneficiary may ask for certain documents from a trustee, or even a nonparty, and it is the trial court’s job to determine if the documents are relevant to the pending action. What if the relevancy of the documents is not apparent from the face of the complaint? A recent opinion, Hett v. Barron-Lunde, addresses this exact issue.

Hett v. Barron-Lunde

A January 22, 2020 Second DCA opinion, Hett v. Barron-Lunde, discusses when an evidentiary hearing is needed to determine the relevancy of documents. Here, subpoenas were issued that ordered the disclosure of a trust and trustee’s financial information. The trust was not a named party in the lawsuit.

The trial court did not consider any evidence before deeming the nonparty financial information relevant. Was the Florida trial court required to consider evidence, or hold an evidentiary hearing, to determine whether or not the information was relevant?

The Second DCA said that “where a trial court orders the disclosure of a nonparty’s financial information without considering any evidence regarding its relevance, the trial court departs from the essential requirements of law. ”

Here, because the relevancy was not apparent from the face of the complaint, the trial court should have held an evidentiary hearing to determine the relevancy of the trust documents.