No matter how good a person’s intention may have been in creating a trust, as with any matter involving money and property, disputes often occur. Beneficiaries in Fort Lauderdale may contest the actions of the Trustee located in Miami. As with other legal disputes, it is often desirable to resolve a dispute over a trust without dealing with the time, expense, and burdens of the court system. This is why Florida Statute section 736.0111 permits people to enter into non-judicial settlement agreements. A non-judicial settlement agreement allows people to resolve a dispute themselves, without the court, and then enter into a contract that lays out whatever agreement was reached. Then, if a future dispute arises about the trust, a court can step in and enforce the terms of the non-judicial settlement agreement.
Non-judicial settlement agreements can be used to resolve a wide variety of issues that often cause problems when dealing with a trust. For example, non-judicial settlement agreements can be used to resolve disputes over (1) how the wording of a trust should be interpreted, (2) a trustee’s report or accounting of the money or property in the trust, (3) whether to direct a trustee to take or not to take a certain action, (4) granting power to a trustee to take certain actions, (5) appointing or removing a trustee, and (6) determining a trustee’s compensation.
There are some things people should be aware of before entering into a non-judicial settlement agreement. Settlement agreements can only be valid if the terms of the agreement could have been approved by a court if the dispute had actually been filed in court. Also, a non-judicial settlement agreement will not be valid if it causes a result that is prohibited by the Florida Trust Code. For example, an agreement cannot modify or terminate a trust in a way or manner prohibited by the Trust Code. Because the Florida Trust Code is complex and because there is often a lot of money and/or valuable property at stake in a dispute over a trust, it is important that someone with experience helps negotiate and write a non-judicial settlement agreement or there is a risk that a settlement agreement will not be valid. If a settlement agreement is not valid, it will have absolutely no effect on a trust and the individuals affected by the trust. In other words, an invalid non-judicial settlement agreement is not worth the paper it is printed on.
If you or someone you know is involved in a dispute over a trust and lives in the West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami-Dade area, the experienced legal team at Chepenik Trushin is ready, willing, and able to assist in all aspects of the dispute, including non-judicial settlement agreements. Please do not hesitate to contact us for an initial first consultation.