When an individual creates a Trust, he/she likely has several goals in mind, including creating a simple and efficient plan for distributing assets, and minimizing the risk of costly, time-consuming, and sometimes emotionally damaging, litigation. A well-drafted Trust Agreement and Trustees who strictly follow the requirements spelled out in the Trust can greatly reduce the risk of such battles, but no Trustee is completely immune from the ire of a dissatisfied Beneficiary. If you are a Trustee facing such a threat, or are a Beneficiary watching a Trustee squander a Trust’s wealth, Board-certified estate litigation attorney Mark R. Manceri can help you.
Trustees have the legal authority and fiduciary duty over the assets within a Trust. All Trustees have what is called a “fiduciary” relationship, meaning the Trustee has a duty to administer the Trust assets in a prudent manner for the benefit of the Beneficiaries, in accordance with Florida law and the Trust Agreement’s terms, objectives, and goals. The Trustee also has a duty keep accurate and complete Trust records and provide information and accountings to the Beneficiaries regarding actions taken on behalf of the Trust.
If a Trustee fails to fulfill his/her duties, the Beneficiaries have recourse through the Courts. The Court, if the Beneficiaries prevail in their case, may provide “equitable” and/or “legal” remedies to the Beneficiaries. Equitable remedies may involve ordering the Trustee to take certain action or refrain from acting in a certain manner. The Court might, among other things, issue an injunction that orders a Trustee to perform (or cease performing) a particular act on behalf of the Trust, or to re-pay ill-gotten profits or commissions. Legal remedies involve money damages. In breach of fiduciary duty cases, the victim may receive both compensatory and punitive damages.
Florida law clearly states that a fiduciary “owes to its Beneficiary the duty to refrain from self-dealing, the duty of loyalty, the overall duty to not take unfair advantage and to act in the best interest of the other party.” As a Trustee, one of the keys to avoiding liability is not performing acts that appear to enrich oneself more than the Trust or the other Beneficiaries. In some cases, Courts have ruled that a Trustee of a Trust may be liable to Beneficiaries for actions that financially benefitted the Trustee or because the actions were not prudent decisions calculated to be in the best interest of the Trust or the Beneficiaries.
When litigation is undertaken, or becomes unavoidable, Fort Lauderdale Estate and Trust Litigation Attorney Mark R. Manceri is knowledgeable and experienced at assisting clients with estate and probate litigation issues. Mr. Manceri has nearly three decades of experience litigating Trust disputes, and can help guide you through the stressful litigation process. Call (954) 491-7099 for a confidential consultation or contact us online.