Trust Contests and related Probate (Estate) and Trust Litigation in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota, Pinellas County, and surrounding West Florida areas.
Quite similar to will contests, a Florida trust contest is the filing of a formal objection to the validity of the trust instrument. The basis for the invalidity may vary, but the common assertion is that the trust instrument does not accurately reflect the true intent of the person making the trust, otherwise known as the grantor.
The grounds for invalidating a trust are the same as a last will and testament, which includes execution formalities, lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, mistake, fraud and duress. The most common grounds for a trust contest are undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity, or a combination thereof. These topics are discussed in more detail in their own topic panels within the topic bar on the left.
The biggest difference between will contests and trust contests is the forum in which the dispute is heard. Will contests are adversarial proceedings advanced within the administration of a pending probate estate; alternatively, a trust contest is an independent action which needs to be pled separately. Due to persons utilizing both wills and trusts within their estate plans, it is quite common for both a will contest and a trust contest to co-exist during a dispute, and often the same judge will be hearing both disputes, however it very important that potential clients know that the actions are separate and must be advanced accordingly.
Moreover, trust contests are not limited to actions seeking to set aside a trust for incapacity and/or undue influence. Often successor trustees, who are validly appointed, abuse their role or fail to meet their obligations to the beneficiaries pursuant to the trust. This can lead to various different actions which aim to limit the financial damage caused by unscrupulous trustees, recover those damages, and often remove the trustee due to their inappropriate actions.
Lastly, much like will contests, there are various time limitations associated with filing a trust contest. Prospective beneficiaries, or removed beneficiaries, are often approached by other family members and requested to sign paperwork they do not fully understand. It is of the utmost importance that potential proponents of a trust contest not sign these documents, as they might be waiving their ability to present such a claim.
If you are considering a trust contest, please contact an attorney immediately to ensure you are not waiving any rights or failing to assert your claims in a timely manner. Our attorneys routinely deal with these type of trust disputes in the courts of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota and the surrounding West Florida areas.