In most estate and probate litigation cases, the question of what court a case seeking to remove a trustee, or address allegations of trust mismanagement or efforts to disgorge fees are usually very straightforward…especially in cases where the trustee and beneficiaries all live in the same place. But in cases such as the Fink v. Meyer and Posternak, Blankstein & Lund case, currently being litigated in Orange County, Florida, (link to full case here), where the trustee Steven Meyer lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts which is where the firm Posternak, Blankstein & Lund is located present very interesting arguments about the proper forum to litigate these issues.
Lets start with a brief outline of the Norman Fink Trusts and his estate. Norman Fink died in Volusia County, Florida in 2006. His estate was opened in Volusia County and the estate was closed in 2010. His estate consisted of a fairly common pour over will that distributed his millions of dollars in estate assets into two trusts. By 2017, his children who are the beneficiary of these trusts allege that they hadn’t received full trust accounting that comply with Florida’s Trust Code 736.08135. Steven Meyer, who serves as trustee and who is a Boston-based attorney denied that he had an obligation to provide such accounting and litigation ensued.
The first salvos in the litigation begin with the following 20 page motion on jurisdiction which asserts that the trustee didn’t have enough contact with Florida which would subject him or his firm to the jurisdiction of the Florida court. See the full motion below:
The beneficiaries of the trust respond with their own 29 page response which argues that years worth of contact with Florida clearly place jurisdiction squarely within the Florida Courts:
The question of where jurisdiction will lie seems very clear. When trustees spend year after year being directly and substantially involved in a whole range of contacts and conflicts withing the State of Florida and when one or more beneficiaries live in the State of Florida a trustee should certainly understand that they will be compelled to explain their conduct inside a Florida courtroom.
One related note, both Florida’s Probate Code and Florida’s Probate Rules provide for subsequent administration by ANY INTERESTED PARTY will allow an estate to be reopened upon order of the court based on a variety of circumstances, and especially upon finding an allegation that assets which are subject to administration still exist. A petition will be filed in this case and in that case, it’s clear that jurisdiction rests entirely within the court during which those proceedings were originally brought:
733.903 Subsequent administration- The final settlement of an estate and the discharge of the personal representative shall not prevent further administration. The order of discharge may not be revoked based upon the discovery of a will or later will.