Here, Reed discusses how a Florida court decides the proper location for a trust dispute.
How Does a Florida Court Decide the Proper Location for a Trust Dispute?
Courts decide where a trust dispute is litigated according to Florida statutes. This is called the venue for the lawsuit. Sometimes, by challenging that venue because it may be an inconvenient forum, the venue may be moved.
There are two Florida statutes that inform you where the proper venue for a trust dispute case should be.
The general Florida venue statute says that a cause of action shall be brought in the county where the defendant resides, or where the cause of action accrued, or if there’s property involved wherever that property is located.
However, the Florida Trust Code states you can also bring the cause of action:
- In any county where a beneficiary is suing or being sued
- Where the beneficiary resides
3. Where a beneficiary has a principal place of business, or the county where the trust has its principal place of administration, which means where the trustee is located.
Where the Trust Is Located
There are multiple potential places where you could sue for breach of trust or actions arising or pertaining to a trust. However, just because a beneficiary technically meets the requirements of one of these provisions, that doesn’t mean it will actually be litigated there.
For example, let’s say Beneficiary A lives in Alaska, but the trust is sited in Florida and most of the other family members live in Florida. Most of the witnesses are in Florida, but Beneficiary A files suit in Alaska. If Beneficiary B is suing the trustee, the trustee can file a motion called forum non conveniens — which means an inconvenient forum — and challenge the venue. Basically, the trustee is telling the judge, “This is not a good place to litigate this case.”
There is a beneficiary in Alaska, but the trust is located in Florida. Most of the other beneficiaries are in Florida. Most of the witnesses are in Florida. Therefore, the case should be transferred to Florida to litigate.
We shouldn’t hold all of these other people responsible to travel to Alaska when there’s only one person in Alaska who could come to Florida to litigate the case. Ultimately, the court will decide the proper venue in which to litigate.
Disputes Over Venue Often Occur in Florida
Disputes over the venue site often occur within Florida.
For example, someone in St. Johns County wants to challenge a trust and files suit in St. John’s County. However, the vast majority of the witnesses and other beneficiaries of the trust are in Orange County. The trustee, or another beneficiary, could file a motion for forum non conveniens to have it transferred to Orange County.
Florida statutes set forth where a trust litigation venue can lie, then you have a Florida rule of civil procedure that says, “This is the process you have to go through in order to transfer from one venue to another.”
Reed Bloodworth is managing partner of Bloodworth Law. If you have a question about a trust dispute, call him to talk about how Bloodworth Law can help you or your family.