Jurisdiction and Venue Basics for Florida Trust Litigation

Jurisdiction and Venue Basics for Florida Trust Litigation

A common scenario in Florida Trust litigation occurs when a settlor creates a trust in Florida but the trustee is out of state.  Questions arise as to the proper jurisdiction and venue for bring forth trust litigation.  Fla. Stat. 736.0202 is instructive; it provides in pertinent part:

(1) In rem jurisdiction.–Any beneficiary of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state to the extent of the beneficiary’s interest in the trust.

(2) Personal jurisdiction.–

(a) Any trustee, trust beneficiary, or other person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this state, who personally or through an agent does any of the following acts related to a trust, submits to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state involving that trust:

  1. Accepts trusteeship of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state at the time of acceptance.
  2. Moves the principal place of administration of a trust to this state.
  3. Serves as trustee of a trust created by a settlor who was a resident of this state at the time of creation of the trust or serves as trustee of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state.
  4. Accepts or exercises a delegation of powers or duties from the trustee of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state.
  5. Commits a breach of trust in this state, or commits a breach of trust with respect to a trust having its principal place of administration in this state at the time of the breach.
  6. Accepts compensation from a trust having its principal place of administration in this state.
  7. Performs any act or service for a trust having its principal place of administration in this state.
  8. Accepts a distribution from a trust having its principal place of administration in this state with respect to any matter involving the distribution.

(b) A court of this state may exercise personal jurisdiction over a trustee, trust beneficiary, or other person, whether found within or outside the state, to the maximum extent permitted by the State Constitution or the Federal Constitution.

Venue, the geographic location of the action, a different concept than jurisdiction, is the choice of what County, in our case, what Florida County is proper to bring an action involving a trust dispute. Fla. Stat. 736.0204 Provides:

Venue for actions and proceedings concerning trusts, including those under s. 736.0201, may be laid in:

(1) Any county where the venue is proper under chapter 47;

(2) Any county where the beneficiary suing or being sued resides or has its principal place of business; or

(3) The county where the trust has its principal place of administration.

Importantly, this means that pursuant to subsection two above, any county in which a beneficiary resides has the potentially ability to bring suit.  That distinct home Court (pardon the pun) advantage is unique in Florida litigation.   Most civil suits require venue to be laid in either (1) county where Defendant(s) reside (2) where the transaction or cause of action accrued or (3) where the property in dispute is located.  If you’re a beneficiary dealing with a trustee administering your Trust out of state, you likely have the ability to use Florida’s long-arm trust litigation statutes, identified above, to bring your cause of action here in the Sunshine State.  For any Florida trust dispute visit our website or call for a free consultation.

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