The purpose of a trust is to transfer assets to beneficiaries without going through probate court. Although one of the purposes of a trust is to ease the process of passing assets after death, problems sometimes arise that could mean the beneficiaries, trustees, or others end up in court.
Anyone who wishes to challenge a trust, or any trustee whose decisions are being challenged, should work with an experienced probate attorney. A Pinecrest trust litigation lawyer has extensive experience arguing complex issues in court to challenge or defend a trust.
Common Uses of Trusts
Trusts are useful tools in many situations and the law recognizes various types. In general, a trust is something a donor creates for the benefit of one or more people, either now or in the future. The donor puts property in a trust and appoints a trustee to manage it. A beneficiary then gains access to the trust property when some event occurs, such as when they reach a certain age or when the donor passes away.
Some families pass their wealth on to their descendants through trusts. Less-wealthy families might put a home in a trust for the benefit of the younger generation and provide a life interest to the donor, or grandparents might fund a trust for their grandchildren’s education. A Pinecrest trust litigation attorney can consult with a family and recommend a trust instrument that meets their specific needs.
Drafting trust documents requires specific legal knowledge. The precise wording of the document could have significant consequences when the beneficiaries attempt to access the trust property. Working with legal counsel can ensure the trust achieves its purpose without unwanted consequences to the beneficiaries.
Issues That Might Lead to Trust Litigation
Although one of the benefits of a trust is that it is easy to transfer property, there will often be controversies. Sometimes the dispute is a matter of clarifying the language or intent of a trust. These issues can impact who is entitled to access the trust property and when, who must pay taxes on the property, and similar concerns. Sometimes the property in a trust is not valuable enough to justify the cost of administering it, and a trustee or beneficiary might bring an action to terminate the trust.
Beneficiaries sometimes bring actions against trustees, objecting to the way they have managed it. Trustees are fiduciaries, which means they must uphold the highest standards and carry out the donor’s wishes for the beneficiaries’ best interests. Sometimes a beneficiary believes the trustee has not been paying full attention to their duty or is making decisions out of self-interest. A beneficiary could sue for breach of fiduciary duty or seek to have the trustee removed.
A beneficiary, or someone who believes they should have been a beneficiary, might challenge the validity of a trust. These lawsuits might allege the donor (also called the testator) lacked the mental capacity to create the trust or acted under someone else’s undue influence. These cases can become complex, with different beneficiaries hiring their own attorneys and proposing different interpretations of the trust.
Resolving Trust Issues Before a Court Fight
Almost any matter is best resolved by the parties through negotiation rather than by a Judge in a court case. Negotiated settlements are usually quicker and the parties keep some control over the decisions.
A skilled litigation attorney in Pinecrest can resolve a trust dispute through a settlement agreement. Florida Statute § 736.0111 allows parties to settle many trust issues through a non-judicial settlement, including the following conflicts:
- Clarifying trust language;
- Whether a trustee may take certain actions;
- Removing or appointing a trustee;
- Determining a trustee’s compensation.
Non-judicial settlement agreements are enforceable. However, an agreement will not take effect if it results in something prohibited by law. Parties must work with experienced legal professionals when negotiating and drafting these agreements.
Contact a Pinecrest Trust Litigation Attorney About a Dispute Today
People create trusts to make it easier and quicker to transfer property but it does not always go according to plan. You should seek representation from The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm if you are engaged in a trust controversy.
A Pinecrest trust litigation lawyer will learn your goals in a dispute and work diligently to achieve them. Reach out to us today to discuss your situation during a free consultation.