Estate trustee litigation

Estate and Trust Litigation: Holding the Trustee Accountable


A trustee is a person who has broad discretion with very little oversight over someone else’s assets. Practically the only time a beneficiary can review what the trustee has done and have an opportunity to challenge those actions, through possible trust litigation, is when the trustee provides an accounting to the beneficiary. As such, one of the many duties a trustee has is the duty to inform and account. This fiduciary duty is critically important to ensure that the trustee is properly discharging his or her fiduciary duties in managing the affairs of the trust.


Trust litigation and estate planningThe law of trusts has always imposed a duty on the trustee to keep the beneficiary informed as to the administration of the trust and to account to the beneficiary for all actions taken by the trustee. Without a proper accounting disclosing how the trustee has handled the trust affairs, there is little chance of a trustee being held accountable and therefore, the trustee’s duties could be breached at will without any means of redress.

To avoid estate and trust litigation, the burden of proof is on the fiduciary to show that they have fully performed their duties, and the means for such proof is by providing a sufficient and proper accounting.

To continue reading this article please click here: Avoid Estate Litigation.

“A trustee has a duty to maintain clear, complete, and accurate books and records regarding the trust. It is important for the trustee to keep clear and complete records so that the beneficiary can tell whether the trustee has acted with prudence, loyalty, and impartiality and whether the costs of administration have been reasonable and appropriate.”

Attorney Jay Fleece Is Featured in 24th Edition of Best Lawyers in America©

Jay Fleece lawyer

Joseph W. “Jay” Fleece, III

St. Petersburg lawyer, Jay Fleece, a partner with Legacy Protection Lawyers, was selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America 2018 in the field of Trusts and Estates Litigation. Best Litigation Lawyer Tampa Bay areaBest Lawyers® is based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. This year, 7.4 million votes were analyzed, resulting in the inclusion of more than 58,000 lawyers in the 24th edition. Lawyers are not required nor allowed to pay a fee to be listed. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

To schedule an appointment with a Jay Fleece, call (727) 471-5868, and click here for more information about Legacy Protection Lawyers.

Best Lawyers: “Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Our methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

Best Lawyers employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services. Our belief has always been that the quality of a peer review survey is directly related to the quality of the voters.”

estate assets

Estate planning and How Property Passes on Death.

Estate planning:

When someone dies, their property, be it real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry, automobiles or whatever that person owns must pass to someone legally entitled to those assets. There are 3 basic ways through proper estate planning that property passes on death. Each way depends on how the particular asset is owned or titled at the time of death.

Probate court1. Probate. If someone owns an asset in his or her own name at the time of death, that asset should pass to the deceased beneficiaries that are specified in his or her will. If the decedent did not have a will, then the property owned by the decedent will pass under the laws of intestacy. In other words, the state of Florida makes a will for the decedent. This doesn’t mean all of the decedent’s property passes to the state but rather to individuals depending on their relationship to the decedent.

Florida statutes 732.102 and 732.103 set forth the statutory scheme for intestate succession. For example, if a man dies without a will but is survived by a spouse and children of that marriage, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $60,000.00 of assets and anything over that amount is equally divided between the surviving spouse and the children.

When property passes by the terms of a last will and testament or by intestate succession, the process by which this transfer is accomplished is called probate. Probate is essentially a court-supervised process whereby a decedent’s property is transferred in an orderly fashion to the ones legally entitled to those assets.

Estate planning and A Living Trust2. Trusts. Some people elect to create a revocable “living” trust during their lifetime. Here, the trust assets are typically titled in the name of the trust. The grantor, the one creating the trust, has full power to change, modify and revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. After the death of the grantor, these trusts usually terminate and the disposition of the property held in the trust will be governed by the terms of the trust. These type of trusts typically contain language very similar to language used in a last will and testament, which specifies how and to whom the decedent’s property will pass. A successor trustee named in the trust document would then have the responsibility of effectuating the terms of the trust and to make sure the intended beneficiaries receive what the decedent intended. The administration of the trust is also similar to the probate process but is not subject to court supervision.

Estate assets3. By contractual provisions. Assets subject to contractual provisions pass outside the probate process and the trust process. These assets pass directly to the recipients designated in the contract that governs that asset. The most prevalent type of asset that passes by contract would be a joint bank account. Typically a bank account titled in two or more names will pass to the survivor. Other types of contractual bank accounts include the payable on death account, or the “held in trust for …” account, a Totten trust as these types of accounts are sometimes called. Other forms of contractual arrangements which pass property directly to a named beneficiary include life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and annuities.

Why someone should engage in estate planning. While each of these areas is discussed in greater detail in other articles, this basic outline should illustrate how important it is to make sure that you understand how your assets are titled and how they will pass on death. The unintended consequences of improperly titling your assets could have a devastating effect on your estate plan. For those with substantial wealth, estate planning from a tax perspective can save on income and estate taxes.

To schedule an appointment with Jay Fleece:  

Phone: 727-471-5868