Florida Trust Administration Lawyers
Caring & Efficient Legal Advocates in Your Corner
Trust administration is the process of managing assets that someone has put in trust. While a trustee holds legal title to the assets and is in control, they do so for the benefit of the beneficiaries who hold beneficial title to the property. Trustees must strictly follow the rules provided in the trust and set forth under the Florida Trust Code.
What Are the Duties & Liabilities of a Trustee?
The responsibilities placed upon the individual serving as trustee are tremendous. Trustees are given much power and with that power, the law imposes many protections against the possible temptations to abuse that power. Under the Florida Trust Code, trustees are fiduciaries with the following established duties and corresponding liabilities:
- Administering Trusts in Good Faith: Under Florida Law“… upon acceptance of a trusteeship, the trustee shall administer the trust in good faith, following its terms and purposes and the interests of the beneficiaries, and in accordance with this code” (Florida Statute §736.0801). This must be done“… solely in the interests of the beneficiaries” (Florida Statute §736.0802). Accordingly, once the trustee accepts the position, they agree to act against their self-interests if need be to administer the trust for the beneficiaries’ benefit.
- Allegiance and Loyalty to Beneficiaries: The trustee acts in allegiance and loyalty to the beneficiaries of the trust. Failure to meet fiduciary duties can expose the trustee to personal liability. Trustees should seek experienced legal guidance before carrying out their administrative duties to avoid or limit exposure of their personal assets to claims by the trust beneficiaries in any breach of fiduciary cause of action.
- Dictates of the Trust Instrument: Trustees must follow the dictates of the trust instrument itself as well as federal and state law. Conflicts arising between the law and the language of the instrument must be resolved; sometimes, this may involve the filing of a lawsuit by the trustee to obtain judicial resolution of the dilemma.
- Communicating with Beneficiaries: Periodic communications with the beneficiaries are extremely important during the trustee’s tenure. Keeping the beneficiaries “reasonably informed” is legally required, but what is “reasonable” will be dependent upon the individual circumstances. Also, the trust may not delineate guidelines for updating or informing those benefiting from the trust of the decisions and actions of the trustee. However, prudent trustees are well-advised to communicate often and in detail with the beneficiaries of the trust. Written communications serve everyone well, and any conflicts or confusion that arise from these updates can be resolved expeditiously with the assistance of legal counsel.
- Accounting of the Trust: Each year, the trustee will also be required to give a full accounting of the trust (assets, liabilities, revenue received, payments made, etc.) to the beneficiaries. This cannot be waived by the trustee and must be performed annually.
Proudly Serving Trustees Throughout Florida
While the trustee is required to personally undertake as much of the administration as possible, this does not prohibit the trustee from seeking the assistance of professionals, including accountants, bookkeepers, and attorneys to during the performance of their duties. Given the personal exposure a trustee undertakes when accepting the job of trust administration, smart trustees consult with experienced trust planning and administration attorneys to guide them in their efforts.
A flip side of a trustee's duty is a beneficiary's right. A trustee who fails to perform their duties can be subject to suit by the beneficiary for breach of fiduciary duty and can be compelled, among other things, to provide accountings.
The dedicated Florida trust administration lawyers at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. have been serving clients since 2002 and have represented more than 3,000 clients in estate-related disputes. We have extensive experience both prosecuting and defending a wide variety of causes of action. Our attorneys have varied backgrounds that make them extraordinarily well-suited to handle your legal matters.
Adrian and Jeff, thank you to BOTH of you for all your hard work, diligence, PATIENCE, advice, time, and effort- V.F.
Adrian - you delivered as Dan promised you would.- J.M.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.- J.A.
Thank you for your expertise and guidance in resolving my case.- D.F.