VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Avoiding conflicts between trustees and beneficiaries

Many Florida residents decide to leave their children or grandchildren an inheritance through a trust rather than in a lump sum pursuant to a will. A trust can allow funds to be transferred to beneficiaries outside of probate court, and the funds can be disbursed incrementally over a period of time. A trust is a legally enforceable document that is managed by a trustee chosen by the settlor.

Sometimes people choose institutional trustees to manage their trusts, but trusted friends and family members are often asked to assume this role. If the beneficiaries of a trust do not understand their rights, or the trustee does not communicate with the beneficiaries about the details of the trust, a conflict could arise due to miscommunication or a misunderstanding.

To avoid the potential for a trust to become the source of mistrust in a family, it is a good idea for the trustee to give the beneficiaries a copy of the trust document. That way, the beneficiaries of the trust can understand how the trust works and what they should expect. If the beneficiaries determine that the trustee is not performing its duties correctly, the beneficiaries may contact an attorney about taking legal action to enforce the trust.

A person who is creating an estate plan may want to work with an estate planning attorney to set up financial trusts for the benefit of their loved ones. An attorney may be able to advise the person about who they should select to be the trustee, whether to name multiple co-trustees and whether to write a trust protector provision into the trust.

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