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Know Your Rights as a Beneficiary

Trusts are commonly used in estate planning to either supplement or completely replace a will.  Florida trust laws require certain elements in order to make a trust valid.

Florida Statute Chapter 736, referred to as the Florida Trust Code, controls almost every aspect of creation and administration of a trust.

Let’s start with the basics:

A trust is made up of three main characters: 1)  the settlor or grantor, 2) the trustee, and 3) the beneficiary.

If you are a beneficiary, it is important to know your rights before anything goes off track. This article will address the basics of being a beneficiary 

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What Is a Beneficiary?

A beneficiary is a person or persons to whom the settlor has conferred a benefit to within the trust. 

Many beneficiaries may feel that they are at the mercy of the trustee, if the trust agreement provides broad authority and discretion. Nonetheless,  Florida Probate Code and the Florida Probate Rules, place protections in place for the beneficiaries by primarily requiring the trustee to maintain open and regular communication with the beneficiaries of the trust. 

A beneficiary is not limited to those of sound mind and does not discriminate based on age, although the trust agreement should be reviewed thoroughly to determine if specific age-related instructions and/or restrictions have been stated.

Trust Beneficiary Rights

The beneficiary rights go hand-in-hand with the duties of a trustee. A trustee has a legal obligation to act in the best interest of the beneficiary. Some of these rights include:

Removal of Trustee: If the beneficiaries of a trust feel that a trustee is not properly fulfilling their obligation, they can request that the trustee be relieved of their duties. This has to be done by filing a petition. The petition will then be presented to a court for determination. The beneficiaries must reason that the trustee has not been acting in their best interest in order to successfully remove them from this responsibility.

Fair Treatment: A trustee is legally obligated to provide fair treatment to the beneficiaries. A trustee cannot claim additional payment as the trustee, though they are entitled to a small fee for their duties. Likewise, a trustee cannot act in favor of one beneficiary over the other. They must remain unbiased in their role in order to ensure complete and fair rights.

Right to Payment: Of course, beneficiaries have the right to receive a payout from the trust. The trust will list the proper distribution of the monetary gains for said trust. Beneficiaries have the right to this payment in a timely manner. However, it is not uncommon for payment to take several months to be distributed.

The most important right that a beneficiary has is the right to information. It is extremely vital, which is why we will discuss this in full in the next section.

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Beneficiary Rights to Information

As mentioned, a trustee is obligated to share all information associated with the trust. This includes providing copies of the written trust or will at the beneficiary’s request. It also means that a beneficiary has the right to information concerning any investment opportunities or potential purchases made from within the trust.

Failure to disclose this information can result in legal consequences or actions against the trustee. A report of all expenses, income, and other distribution made from the estate must be provided in a timely manner. The trustee is responsible for reporting all taxes from income accrued by the trust to the government. All beneficiaries should be made aware of such tax filings and be kept updated as to the status of the trust, living or otherwise.

Need more information on your rights as a beneficiary? Contact the Orlando Litigation Lawyer for more help.


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