Do You Have to Comply With Your Own Rules for Amending Your Trust?
Under Florida law, the settlor of a revocable trust can revoke or amend said trust at any point during their lifetime. The trust instrument itself may specify a method for revoking or amending the trust. In such cases, Section 735.0602 of the Florida Statutes requires “substantial compliance” with that method in order for the amendment or revocation to be valid.
Florida Courts Invalidate Trust Restatement Never Delivered to Co-Trustee
So does this mean a Florida court can invalidate a trust amendment if the settlor fails to comply with their own specified procedure for amending their trust? The Florida Second District Court of Appeal recently addressed this question. In Grassfield v. Grassfield, the son and widow of a deceased Florida resident contested the validity of an amendment he made to his trust.
The settlor originally created the revocable trust in 2003. He decided the trust should have two trustees. Initially, those trustees were himself and his financial advisor. In 2016, the settlor amended the trust, this time naming himself and his son as the co-trustees. The trust language further provided that the settlor reserved the power to further “alter, amend, restate, terminate or revoke” the trust “by an instrument, in writing, signed by the [settlor], acknowledged before a Notary Public, and delivered to the Trustee during the [settlor’s] lifetime.”
In 2018, the settlor executed a restatement of the 2003 revocable trust. This restatement removed the son as co-trustee and replaced him with the settlor’s then-friend and later wife. The wife was also named the primary beneficiary of the trust. After the settlor married the wife, he signed two additional trust amendments in 2019, which provided for the transfer of additional assets to the wife upon the settlor’s death and named her as the successor trustee.
The settlor died in August 2019. Litigation ensued between the son and the wife. As relevant here, the son challenged the validity of the 2018 trust restatement and the 2019 amendments. Specifically, the son said his father failed to “substantially comply” with the procedure for amending the trust, as the father never “delivered” the restatement or amendments to the son, who was a co-trustee. The wife argued there was substantial compliance despite the lack of delivery.
Both the trial court and the Second District disagreed and invalidated the restatement and the 2019 amendments. The Second District noted that under the “plain terms of the trust,” the settlor always intended for there to be two co-trustees acting together. And while the settlor reserved the right to remove a trustee, he also required himself to do so by notifying the other trustee in writing. Since the settlor failed to comply with his own requirement, his restatement and amendments were invalid.
Contact Florida Trustee Dispute Lawyer Mark R. Manceri Today
As unusual as the case above may sound, it demonstrates the legal complexity that can arise when interpreting a Florida trust. If you are involved in a trustee dispute and need legal advice or representation from a qualified Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation attorney, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.