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A Modern Approach with an old fashioned feel PROBATE • ESTATE PLANNING • ASSET PROTECTION • BUSINESS LAW

Florida woman sues brother for alleged mishandling trust

Selecting a person to administer a trust may is a very important decision. After all, whoever is selected as trustee is put in a position to manage and distribute assets. Failure to adhere to the terms of the trust could result in very serious legal issues, in addition to potentially shorting beneficiaries of assets that are due to them.

According to a story from the Daily Business Review, a 75-year-old woman has filed a breach of fiduciary duty suit against her brother for improperly administering a family trust established by their mother. At this time, the woman contends there should be about $1.5 million remaining in the trust, but her brother's malfeasance has left the trust with only $300,000.

Reports indicate that about $3.3 million worth of assets were drawn from the trust between 2005 and 2007. Yet the judge assigned to oversee the ongoing litigation has limited the scope of this case to the last 2.5 years of the mother's life.

The woman asserts that her brother's decision to improperly manage the trust has put her at a financial disadvantage. She apparently is staying with her daughter, while her brother is living luxuriously in an exclusive country club. If her suit is successful, she could recover a significant share of assets.

This particular lawsuit is only one episode in a series of legal disputes involving this family's estate. The family's wealth was acquired by a prominent real estate developer many decades ago, but it's his grandchildren who are currently at odds with each other.

As this case moves forward, Florida residents may want to take a close look at their estate plans. Not only is it important to ensure that the terms of wills and trusts are accurate, but it's crucial to make sure that any named trustees are up to their task. In certain situations, it may be best to name an impartial party to this particular role in order to avoid disputes down the road.

Source: Daily Business Review, "Justice Watch: Grandchildren Going To Court Over Real Estate Trust Money," John Pacenti, Jan. 24, 2014

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