A trust is a legal way to pass property on to the next generation while avoiding the probate process. Many people use trusts as an essential ingredient in their estate planning.
Detailed legal requirements apply to trusts and to trustees, which are the people who manage the property in trusts. There are often disputes about whether the trust is operating as the maker intended and whether the trustee is doing their job properly. It is critical to seek advice from a trustworthy probate attorney if there is a conflict.
The people who benefit from a trust are called the beneficiaries. When the beneficiaries are unhappy with some aspect of the trust or its management, they could bring a lawsuit against the trustee. Whether you are a trustee or the beneficiary of a trust, turn to an experienced West Miami trust litigation lawyer for help.
Requirements for a Valid Trust
A trust is like a will in the sense that the person who creates the trust intends it to pass property to their heirs. Some of the same requirements that apply to wills also apply to trusts. For example, a trust is not valid unless the maker:
- Has the mental capacity to make the trust;
- Makes the trust free from fraud and duress;
- Is free from the undue influence of someone who will benefit from the trust.
A trust litigation attorney in West Miami could interview witnesses and seek other evidence if a beneficiary believes a trust is invalid because of lack of capacity, fraud, duress, or undue influence.
A trust is different than a will in several ways. Probate will take anywhere from a few months to a few years. A trust could exist for many years or even decades after the maker’s death. People with significant assets often fund a trust and allow the beneficiaries to withdraw the income it generates while preserving most of the funds for future generations.
Duties of an Estate Trustee
A trustee is a fiduciary, which means they must always act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and not for their personal interests. In addition, the trust document could impose additional duties on the trustee.
A lot of trust litigation concerns the conduct of a trustee. Beneficiaries and other interested parties could petition the probate court to remove a trustee for cause. Actions that could justify removing a trustee include:
- Self-dealing, meaning the trustee is using the trust to create profits or business opportunities for themselves;
- Embezzling or diverting trust assets for their own use;
- Failing to conduct a periodic accounting;
- Failing to distribute trust assets as the trust documents instruct;
- Accepting excessive compensation for their duties as trustee.
Beneficiaries also could remove a trustee for not following the “prudent investor rule.” A trustee’s job is to preserve trust assets and not waste them through risky or improper investments.
The beneficiaries must prove the trustee committed misconduct. In many cases, a West Miami attorney could broker an out-of-court settlement between the trustee and beneficiaries to avoid trust litigation in probate court.
Modifying a Trust
Trusts must have a specific purpose. Sometimes changes in circumstances make it impossible to carry out the trust’s purpose in the way the creator intended. Florida Statute § 736.04113 allows a Judge to modify a trust when necessary to accomplish the maker’s intent. If necessary, a Judge could terminate the trust. Either a trustee or a beneficiary could request the court modify a trust.
A request to modify a trust brings up numerous complicated legal issues. A West Miami trust litigation attorney has the skills and experience to represent either party in a proceeding to modify a trust.
Work with a West Miami Trust Litigation Attorney Today
Trusts are an excellent way to pass property down to the next generation but they can be complex to administer. If there is a dispute regarding a trust, get advice from The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm.
A West Miami trust litigation lawyer will work to resolve the matter without going to court. However, if necessary, we can provide skilled courtroom representation. Call today to set up a free consultation.