If you suspect a trust has been improperly created or managed, you will need a Trust contest attorney to prove its invalidity. Doing so will allow you to file a lawsuit and fight for your inheritance.
What Is A Trust Contest?
Trustees are given considerable power and they have responsibility to trust beneficiaries. Florida law recognizes this and holds them to specific duties, including acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
As a result, many disputes and disagreements arise, leading to lawsuits. These are known as ‘Trust Contests.’
If you’re considering contesting a Trust in Florida, please note it is only appropriate under certain legal circumstances and must be done with the support of a Florida Trust contest attorney.
How to Contest a Trust in Florida?
Some beneficiaries may feel they were unfairly treated, given an unfair share of assets or completely cut out from a Trust. In Florida, under certain circumstances, they may be able to take legal action against the Trustee, change a Trust or declare it invalid. These can be handled in regular civil courts or with mutual agreements outside court.
Who Can Bring a Trust Contest in Florida?
- Any beneficiary of the Trust, with the belief they have been disadvantaged or disinherited.
- Any beneficiary that has reason to believe the Trust has been mismanaged or invalidated.
- An heir-at-law to the creator of the Trust, who has been disinherited or disadvantaged.
How Long Do I Have to Contest a Trust in Florida?
Florida Statute §736.0604 can make it complicated to understand the time limits available to contest a Trust in Florida.
Generally, you may have only six months to challenge the validity of a Trust. But it depends on the circumstances of your case. For example, the time may vary depending on whether the Trustee sent a proper notice of the Trust with a copy of the trust instrument.
There may also be a different statute of limitations depending on your reason for contesting a Trust.
It is highly advised that you contact a Florida Trust contest attorney fast. Time is of the essence and any delay could see you miss out on your inheritance.
Reasons for Contesting a Trust in Florida
An undue influence claim alleges that the creator of the Trust was pressured, manipulated or coerced by another person – which altered their decision-making.
The court will look for evidence of this, which may include whether there was a secret relationship or significant benefit for a particular beneficiary.
Lack of Capacity
This type of Trust contest claims that the person who made the Trust did not have the mental competency to fully understand their decisions, the nature of their property and the consequences for their loved ones.
This may include scenarios where the Trust creator had a medical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia, insane delusion or other lack of ‘sound mind.’
Mistake in Execution
The rules in accordance with Florida Statute §736.0403 regarding execution of the Trust agreement must be followed at all times. If this statute is not observed upon execution, then a Trust may be invalid.
Fraud may have occurred in a Trust if, for example, self-dealing or sales or purchase of assets were made that benefit the Trustee.
Warning signs of fraud include:
- Changes to the Trust when the Trust creator’s death is imminent.
- A family member being excluded for no apparent reason.
- Assets missing from the estate.
- Substantial gifts made by the deceased prior to death.
- A delay or failure to execute estate administration filings.
Challenging Trust Language
Occasionally, a Trust can contain errors and mistakes that are confusing or can be misinterpreted. A Florida Trust contest attorney can file a lawsuit to get a judge’s ruling on what the Trust language means.
This can lead to the Trust language being reformed or interpreted. This can make a big difference in how an inheritance is distributed if there are disputes over the specific wording of documentation.
Challenging a Trustee’s Actions
There are various Trust litigation lawsuits that a Florida Trust contest attorney can help file, including:
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
The Trustee must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. That means administering the Trust per its terms, investing the Trust property and defending the Trust against claims from other parties.
They may not self-deal, take loans or do business with the Trust on a personal level.
A surcharge against a fiduciary can be made to restore any losses suffered by a breach of fiduciary duty.
Beneficiaries must be allowed to see in-depth accounting of thet Trust. If this is not provided, then the beneficiary may be able to seek the court’s assistance. If there are any accounting issues, the beneficiary can object to the accounting and seek judicial intervention.
Alternatives to Trust Contests
Florida’s Trust Code allows for various alternatives for those seeking justice regarding issues related to a Trust. You should speak to a Florida Trust contest attorney to find the right path for you and your family. These include:
- Nonjudicial Settlement Agreements: Lawsuits can be avoided by having parties work out an agreement outside of court. This avoids the uncertainty of a court’s verdict and gives all parties control over the outcome.
- Trust Modification and Termination: Trust disputes in Florida can be resolved sometimes with simple changes, reformations or termination of the Trust.
- Uneconomic Trust Can Be Terminated: A Trustee with property valued less than $50,000 can terminate the Trust if the Trust property is insufficient to cover administration costs. Also, a court can modify or terminate a Trust or change the Trustee.
- Trust Reformation: Changes to the Trust can be made with the court’s permission if clear evidence is provided that the terms of the Trust were affected by mistake.
- Trustee Removal: With the court’s approval, a Trustee can resign with a 30 days notice to the settlor, Co-Trustees or beneficiaries.
Contact a Florida Trust Contest Attorney
If you or a loved one feel your rights to inherit from a Trust have been infringed through mismanagement, fraud or for any other suspicions, then you should contact a Florida Trust contest attorney as soon as possible.
Florida’s Trust laws are complicated and deadlines will come at you fast. Having an experienced Florida Trust contest attorney on your side can be the difference between gaining your inheritance and losing it.
If you have any questions or suspicions, contact us today.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is a U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they give you the best chance of getting the resolution you hope for.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started.