Usually, a trustee is chosen carefully. The person chosen as trustee will owe a fiduciary duty to a trust’s beneficiaries. He or she will be charged with maintaining assets for the trust beneficiaries’ benefit and asked to distribute assets according to the grantor’s instructions. Some trustees violate their fiduciary duties to beneficiaries, mismanage assets, or are otherwise not fit to serve as a trustee. In that case, it may be appropriate to seek trustee removal, and a seasoned Ocala probate litigation attorney can help you through that process.Statutory Remedies for Trustee Abuse of Power
Trustees have many duties, including a duty to administer a trust in good faith in accord with its purpose and terms, as well as the beneficiaries’ interest and in accord with the Florida Trust Code. Trustees are also expected to administer trust solely in the interests of the beneficiaries, not in their own interest.
Florida law gives beneficiaries many different potential remedies when a trustee fails to carry out their duties. A beneficiary may ask the court to compel a trustee to perform a trustee’s duties. It may also ask the court to enjoin a trustee from perpetrating a breach of trust. Additionally, it may ask the court to order a trustee to provide an accounting. The court may, at the beneficiary’s request, compel the trustee to pay money or restore property where there has been a breach of trust. The court may get the trustee suspended or reduce or deny the trustee’s compensation. Sometimes beneficiaries are able to convince the court to render a trustee’s act void or impose a constructive trust on trust property. There are also situations in which it may be appropriate to remove a trustee under Florida Trust Code section 736.0706. A knowledgeable trust contest lawyer can help you determine if any of these circumstances apply in your case.Trustee Removal
Various abuses may provide the grounds for trustee removal. When a trustee treats a trust as if it’s her personal account, this may constitute adequate grounds for removal. Similarly, a trustee’s failure to provide accountings or any reasonable information about assets to beneficiaries could provide a sound reason to seek removal. Removal might be appropriate if a trustee is making distributions difficult for beneficiaries. Removal could be appropriate if it turns out the trustee named himself as a trustee or beneficiary in connection with an elderly person’s estate planning. A trustee could also be subject to removal for charging inflated fees or not considering compelling circumstances for distributions.
Additionally, a Florida trustee can be removed for reasons detailed in a trust instrument. Certain trusts include provisions that permit a beneficiary to remove a trustee by majority vote. However, Florida law also specifies criteria to remove a trustee under section 736.0706. A beneficiary, co-trustee, or settlor can ask the court to remove a trustee. Alternatively, the court can take the initiative to remove a trustee. The court is allowed to remove a trustee when there is a lack of cooperation among co-trustees that majorly impairs the administration of a trust; the trustee perpetrated a serious breach of trust; because of the trustee’s persistent failure to administer the trust effectively; due to a substantial change of circumstances; or because all qualified beneficiaries ask for removal, the court finds this serves all the beneficiaries’ best interests, the removal doesn’t defeat an important reason for the trust, and there is an appropriate successor or co-trustee.
When you are seeking removal of a trustee without cause at the request of all qualified beneficiaries or because you can show a substantial change in the circumstances, you do not need to prove a grounds for removal. You won’t need to establish that there was a breach of fiduciary duty or that the trustee committed malfeasance. Rather, you’ll need to show that trustee removal serves all the beneficiaries’ interests, that there is someone suitable to replace or join the trustee as a co-trustee, and that the removal isn’t going to be inconsistent with a significant reason for the creation of the trust.Retain an Experienced Probate Litigation Attorney in Ocala
If you are concerned about trustee removal or another trust dispute in Ocala, you can hire a tenacious lawyer who understands trusts and estates. Michael E. Dean and Timothy S. Dean are the lawyers of the Dean Law Firm. We have decades of combined experience. Call (352) 387-8700 to set up a free consultation with our attorneys or contact us online.