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Brannock Humphries & Berman Wins Speedy Reversal in Trust Case

Less than a month after oral argument, the Fifth District Court of Appeal issued a written reversal fully embracing Brannock Humphries & Berman’s arguments in an appeal involving removal of a trustee without service of process on all indispensable parties.

The action was initiated by a contingent beneficiary of the trust who alleged that the current trustee had become incapacitated and that the successor trustee had died. The contingent beneficiary asked to be appointed as trustee. But her complaint did not provide any evidence of incapacity, and she did not serve the complaint on anyone else, including the settlor, the trustee, or the other beneficiaries. Without holding a hearing or conducting any other proceedings, the trial court granted the request and named the contingent beneficiary as the trustee.

After the trial court then denied a motion to set the order of appointment aside, Brannock Humphries & Berman appealed the order on behalf of a named beneficiary who had been completely excluded from the action. Analyzing provisions of the Florida Trust Code and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, the Fifth District held that the indispensable parties, including the beneficiaries, had to be joined and served with process. The Fifth District quashed the order of appointment, reversed the order denying the motion to set aside, and remanded the case for further proceedings conducted with appropriate pleadings, joinder, service of process, notice, and the opportunity for all indispensable parties to meaningfully participate.