West Palm Beach Trust Reformation or Termination Lawyer

Trusts play a significant role in estate planning precisely because the law protects the intent of the people who set them up (the “settlors”). Stability is required to carry out the settlors’ intent, so the law tends to look unfavorably on attempts by trustees and beneficiaries to alter the terms of the trust.  However, the practicalities of life can override those concerns. What if the purpose of the trust has become illegal over time, or the value of the trust is now so low that the costs of administration are eating up the assets?

In Florida, the statutes governing trusts specifically address both termination and modification, detailing when a trust that is otherwise irrevocable may be modified or even terminated.

Reformation When Trust Value Doesn’t Justify Expense of Administration

It’s relatively common for the value of a trust’s assets to diminish over time, while the cost of administering the trust remains the same or increases. Under Florida law, an “uneconomic” trust can be either modified or terminated. In the case of uneconomic trusts, both the trustee and all qualified beneficiaries have the right to apply for a court order that modifies or terminates the trust. For small trusts (under $50,000 in assets), the trustee has the power to terminate the trust without a court order upon determining that the value no longer justifies the costs of administration.

Judicial Reformation to Further Intent of Settlor

The trustee or any beneficiary can apply for reformation on the grounds that:

In deciding whether to grant the modification, and determining how the trust should be modified, the court has to consider:

Whether the trust contains spendthrift terms is a relevant factor but their presence doesn’t preclude modification.

Judicial Reformation to Correct Mistakes

Under the Florida code, trusts can be reformed in order to correct mistakes, whether of fact or law. The provision allows reformation of mistakes that are incorporated into the Terms of the trust as well as mistakes “in the inducement”—errors that led the settlor to create the trust.

A reformation to correct a mistake does not depend on the trust terms being ambiguous.

Judicial Reformation in Best Interest of Beneficiaries

In some cases, circumstances change in a way that the terms of the trust cause hardship to the beneficiaries. Since the ultimate purpose of the trust is to benefit them, Florida law allows trusts to be judicially modified in the best interest of the beneficiaries. The trustee can apply for this type of modification, as can any qualified beneficiary.

In deciding whether to grant the modification, and determining how the trust should be modified, the court has to stick as close to the settlor’s intentions as possible in light of the current circumstances, taking into account:

Whether the trust contains spendthrift terms is a relevant factor but their presence doesn’t preclude modification.

Non-Judicial Reformation

Although the settlor’s desires in creating the trust are important, the fact is that the desires were, by definition, intended to serve the interests of the beneficiaries. Florida law may allow a trust to be terminated without a court order if the interested parties—the trustee and every single qualified beneficiary agree. If there is unanimous agreement, the trust can be fully or partially terminated, though the law applies only to trusts of recent vintage (those created after January 1, 2001).

Get Competent Legal Help

If you have an interest in a trust—whether as a trustee or a beneficiary—and think that the trust may or should be terminated, or have its terms modified for any reasons, we can help. The firm of Todd A. Zuckerbrod, PA, has been handling trust cases for many years. We know trusts and we know what Florida law says about modifications and/or terminations. We can, among other things:

Call the law firm of Todd A. Zuckerbrod, P.A. to schedule a free initial consultation on your trust problem.