Individuals often create trusts in order to help their loved ones avoid the time and aggravation involved in probate court proceedings. A well-drafted trust can ensure that assets are distributed according to the individual's preferences during his lifetime or after death. The individual must appoint a trustee to administer the trust. The trustee has many fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries of the trust. However, all too often, beneficiaries are unaware of these duties. It is important to be aware of them and to understand that you can enlist an estate planning lawyer in litigation to challenge a trustee in the Ocala area who is not living up to the responsibilities of administering a trust.Duties of a Trustee
Under Fla. Stat. § 736.0801, trustees in Florida have a fiduciary duty to administer a trust in good faith according to the terms and purpose of the trust. Trustees also owe a duty of loyalty to administer the trust solely in the beneficiaries' interests. Other duties include a duty of impartiality, a duty of prudence, a duty to take reasonable steps that would protect the trust property and assets, and a duty to use any special skills or expertise possessed.
Some of the other important duties that beneficiaries may be unaware of are the trustee's duties to keep beneficiaries reasonably informed about all the property in the trust and to account for assets, income, gains, losses, and expenses of the trust. The trustee is required to give the beneficiaries information about the trust's assets and liabilities in a yearly trust accounting and to take any reasonable steps to protect the trust property. These steps may include enforcing claims of the trust or defending lawsuits.
In general, beneficiaries often find it useful to ask an attorney to review the trust document to make sure that they are receiving appropriate trust accountings and that there has been no breach of the trustee's fiduciary duties. The trust instrument may include a provision that grants removal power of a trustee. If there is no such provision, the beneficiaries can ask the probate court to remove a trustee for good cause.
There may be good cause to file an action against the trustee if there has been a breach of fiduciary duties, such as a conflict of interest or a mismanagement of the trust assets. When a trustee seems to be unfit because of lack of capacity to administer the trust, the beneficiaries can ask the court to remove the trustee based on lack of capacity or declination under section 736.0706. The appropriate remedies can include removal of the trustee for cause or a surcharge action to restore any losses, including a loss of funds that resulted after a fiduciary's breach of duty.
In some cases, a trustee fails to provide an accounting or provides an objectionable accounting. A beneficiary can ask the court to compel the trustee to properly account for the trust's assets and liabilities.Consult an Experienced Ocala Lawyer for a Probate Litigation Matter
At the Dean Law Firm, our probate litigation attorneys have a firm understanding of a trustee's duties and can assist Ocala residents in trust contests if needed. If you are uncertain about what a trustee owes you as a beneficiary, we can help you determine whether that individual’s duties are being fulfilled. We can also help you seek a judicial intervention or try to remove a trustee. Many of our clients come from Crystal River, The Villages, and other communities in Marion, Sumter, Lake, Citrus, and Levy Counties. Call us at 352-387-8700 or contact us via our online form.