What impact does a prenuptial agreement have upon the title to the assets of a trust and the rights of trust beneficiaries?
The importance of that question was highlighted by a recent Second District Court of Appeals case, Shakespeare v. Prince, 129 So.3d 412 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013). In Shakespeare, Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare entered into a prenuptial agreement to maintain their assets separately. Mrs. Shakespeare, who had inherited a substantial fortune from her prior marriage, bought a home for the couple in Collier County. She subsequently created a trust and, waiving her homestead rights, transferred the title of the home to the trust, making the home a trust asset. Mrs. Shakespeare’s trust provided that, upon her death, Mr. Shakespeare would receive only a life estate in the home; upon Mr. Shakespeare’s death, title to the home would pass to Mrs. Shakespeare’s son from her first marriage. This relatively straightforward estate plan became the subject of extensive litigation when, after Mrs. Shakespeare’s death, her son learned that Mr. Shakespeare had used undue influence to convince his wife to sign over the title to the home, taking it out of the trust. The son brought an action for tortious interference with an expectancy, alleging that Mr. Shakespeare, through undue influence, had interfered with his wife’s fixed testamentary intent to bequeath the home, subject only to Mr. Shakespeare’s life estate therein. The son also sued for breach of the prenuptial agreement, since Mr. Shakespeare had failed to abide by the contract to keep his wife’s assets separate from his own. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the son and awarded the son two separate $150,000 verdicts in addition to the title to the home and other monetary relief. However, the Second District Court of Appeals, in reviewing the record on appeal, determined that the son’s complaint did not contain proper allegations to support the damages verdict returned by the jury, nor was appropriate evidence of such introduced at trial. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed in part and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Whenever a major life event, such as marriage or the death of a loved one might affect a trust estate, you should seek counsel from an experienced trust and estate litigation attorney. The attorneys at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. have experience in litigating trust disputes involving prenuptial agreements.
If you have a question regarding a trust, call the offices of Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. for a free consultation.