A trust, unlike a will, is often not a public record. Only specific people are typically able to view a person’s trust. These people generally include successors listed in a trust, beneficiaries listed in a trust, heirs by law of a trustor, previous heirs of a trustor, the trusts’ accountants, the IRS, and even personal representatives listed on the trustor’s will.
When these people, listed above, receive a copy of the trust instrument, they have an option to object to the trust instrument if they believe the instrument is not valid.
Florida Statute Section 736.0604 governs the time limitations for bringing a claim relating to a Trust contest and provides as follows:
736.0604 Limitation on action contesting validity of revocable trust.—An action to contest the validity of a trust that was revocable at the settlor’s death is barred, if not commenced within the earlier of:
(1) The time as provided in chapter 95; or
(2) Six months after the trustee sent the person a copy of the trust instrument and a notice informing the person of the trust’s existence, of the trustee’s name and address, and of the time allowed for commencing a proceeding.
This statute is problematic because the categories listed above, (1) and (2), are contradictory. Chapter 95 of the Florida Statues (1) does not have a specific time frame on when to commence an action regarding the validity of a trust. Section (2), says the period to bring a claim is 6 months after the trustee sent the person a copy of the trust instrument and a notice informing the person of the trust’s existence.
However, Section 95.11, of Chapter 95, gives a four year time frame to file claims regarding intentional actions or torts.
So what do you do?
When bringing a lawsuit against a Trustee in Florida, the limitations are governed by Section 736.1008:
736.1008 Limitations on proceedings against trustees.—
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), all claims by a beneficiary against a trustee for breach of trust are barred as provided in chapter 95 as to:
(a) All matters adequately disclosed in a trust disclosure document issued by the trustee, with the limitations period beginning on the date of receipt of adequate disclosure.
(b) All matters not adequately disclosed in a trust disclosure document if the trustee has issued a final trust accounting and has given written notice to the beneficiary of the availability of the trust records for examination and that any claims with respect to matters not adequately disclosed may be barred unless an action is commenced within the applicable limitations period provided in chapter 95. The limitations period begins on the date of receipt of the final trust accounting and notice.
(2) Unless sooner barred by adjudication, consent, or limitations, a beneficiary is barred from bringing an action against a trustee for breach of trust with respect to a matter that was adequately disclosed in a trust disclosure document unless a proceeding to assert the claim is commenced within 6 months after receipt from the trustee of the trust disclosure document or a limitation notice that applies to that disclosure document, whichever is received later.
(3) When a trustee has not issued a final trust accounting or has not given written notice to the beneficiary of the availability of the trust records for examination and that claims with respect to matters not adequately disclosed may be barred, a claim against the trustee for breach of trust based on a matter not adequately disclosed in a trust disclosure document is barred as provided in chapter 95 and accrues when the beneficiary has actual knowledge of:
(a) The facts upon which the claim is based if such actual knowledge is established by clear and convincing evidence; or
(b) The trustee’s repudiation of the trust or adverse possession of trust assets.
In other words, the time frame to contest a trust is between six months to four years from receiving notice of the trust instrument.
Call a Florida trust litigation attorney at our office at (954) 515-5000, for a free consultation and more information on trusts and trust litigation.