Florida Trust Litigation
It is not uncommon in South Florida for individuals to be beneficiaries of Florida trusts that have a trustee located in a state other than Florida. There is no rule that the trustee of a Florida trust must be a Florida resident, or even have a presence in Florida. However, prior to the enactment of the Florida Trust Code, there was no specific provision of the Florida Statutes which conferred personal jurisdiction over parties who were not within the geographical boundaries of Florida. Instead, jurisdiction was obtained on out-of-state trustees and beneficiaries under the general long-arm statutes found in chapter 48. This lead to substantial litigation in the form of Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction.
Intrust litigation (as in all lawsuits), it is necessary for the Court to have personal jurisdiction over the trustee(s) and beneficiaries. Otherwise, the Court is unable to hear and remedy wrongs that have been committed. By enacting the Florida Trust Code (and specifically section 736.0202), the legislature included a long-arm statute specifically tailored to trust litigation matters. Under Florida Statute 736.0202, with respect to a trust having its principal place of administration in Florida, a trustee submits to the jurisdiction of Florida courts either by accepting the trusteeship or by moving the principal place of administration to this state; the beneficiaries are subject to the jurisdiction of Florida courts with respect to any matter involving the trust, and recipients who accept a distribution from a trust submit personally to the jurisdiction of Florida courts regarding any matter involving the distribution.
This addition to Florida law is very important in trust litigation as it expressly confers jurisdiction upon out of state trustees of Florida trusts. This helps protect both the grantor’s intent and the rights of a beneficiary and allows a court to hear and adjudicate controversies regarding trusts.