Trusts are valuable legal tools for asset protection, probate avoidance, and efficient estate succession. This arrangement involves a trust maker (trustor or settlor) who transfers nominal ownership of assets to a trustee (fiduciary) for the benefit of specific individuals (beneficiaries).
Do beneficiaries have more rights than trustees under Florida law? Read on to discover.
What Are the Trustee’s Duties in Florida? – The Basics
When someone is named to serve as a trustee to a Florida trust, that person must uphold a fiduciary duty to the trust and its beneficiaries.
Florida Statutes §736.0801 provides that “upon acceptance of a trusteeship, the trustee shall administer the trust in good faith, in accordance with its terms and purposes and the interests of the beneficiaries, and in accordance with this code.”
Florida Statutes §736.0802 (1) specifies that “as between a trustee and the beneficiaries, a trustee shall administer the trust solely in the interests of the beneficiaries.”
Other trustees’ duties expressly stated in Florida law include the duty of impartiality, prudent administration, control and protection of trust property, and the duty to inform and account.
Under Florida Statutes §736.0813, “the trustee shall keep the qualified beneficiaries of the trust reasonably informed of the trust and its administration.”
Does a Beneficiary Has More Rights Than a Florida Trustee? – Taking a Closer Look
Neither the beneficiary nor the trustee has superior rights in Florida. Instead, each individual must act within the legal boundaries established by state law.
As provided by Florida Statutes 736.0815 (1), “a trustee, without authorization by the court, may, except as limited or restricted by this code, exercise powers conferred by the terms of the trust, and except as limited by the terms of the trust:
- All powers over the trust property that an unmarried competent owner has over individually owned property
- Any other powers appropriate to achieve the proper investment, management, and distribution of the trust property
- Any other powers conferred by this code”
Florida Statutes §736.0815 (2) adds that “the exercise of a power is subject to the fiduciary duties prescribed by this code.”
The trust instrument is the core element of any trust arrangement. This document explicitly addresses how the property held in trust must be distributed and the exact amount each beneficiary must receive.
Beneficiaries have the right to request information and accounting from trustees, especially if they need a closer view of the trust management.
As long as the trustee acts transparently and follows the provisions in the trust instrument, the beneficiary cannot “override” the person occupying the fiduciary role. The only situation in which a beneficiary can legally “override” a trustee is a breach of fiduciary duty.
In such cases, the beneficiary must file a lawsuit against the trustee and ask the court to intervene in the trust administration. In such cases, Florida law allows the court to apply the reasonable remedy for the situation, such as:
- Compelling the trustee to perform his or her duties
- Ordering the trustee to provide proper accounting of trust administration
- Suspending the trustee
- Removing the trustee
- Ordering any appropriate relief under state law