4th DCA: Can you challenge a settlor's removal of funds from her own revocable trust on undue influence grounds?
MacIntyre, ex rel. Wedrall Trust v. Wedell, --- So.3d ----, 2009 WL 1393375 (Fla. 4th DCA May 20, 2009)
In Florida National Bank of Palm Beach County v. Genova, 460 So.2d 895 (Fla.1984), the Florida Supreme Court held that - as a matter of law - you can't challenge a settlor's removal of funds from her revocable trust on undue influence grounds. In the Genova case the settlor's withdrawal of funds was challenged while the settlor was still alive. In this case the settlor was dead, so the question became whether the Genova rule applies even after the settlor has died. The 4th DCA said YES based on the following reasoning:
[T]he Genova decision itself plainly suggests the availability of an undue influence challenge to the settlor's revocation of his or her revocable trust should not turn upon whether the action is brought when the settlor is alive or deceased. Genova reached the supreme court as a consequence of the conflict between this court's decision in [Genova v. Florida National Bank of Palm Beach County, 433 So.2d 1211 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983)] and the Second District's decision in Hoffman v. Kohns, 385 So.2d 1064 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980). In Genova, the settlor of the trust was alive, the settlor herself was attempting to revoke the trust, and the co-trustee bank refused to act on her attempted revocation. In Hoffman, the action challenging the decedent's revocation of the trust was brought by a would-have-been beneficiary of the trust after the settlor died. The Second District relied upon “undue influence” to disaffirm the decedent's revocation of the trust. The supreme court expressly disapproved this result in Hoffman after writing that “the principle of undue influence has no place in determining whether a competent settlor can revoke a revocable trust.” 460 So.2d at 896.
In sum, we hold that, as a consequence of Genova, even after the settlor's death, the settlor's revocation of her revocable trust during her lifetime is not subject to challenge on the ground that the revocation was the product of undue influence. Thus, having considered all issues raised, we affirm the dismissal, with prejudice, of the “undue influence” claim.