McMullin v. Beaver, 2005 WL 1278870 (Fla. 4th DCA June 1, 2005) (Trial Court Reversed) When a trust terminates as of a certain date, it is reasonable to assume that winding up the affairs of that trust may take some time after the termination date. But what if the “winding up” process includes filing a lawsuit after the trust termination date? Indian River Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Hawley ruled that was too much, and granted final summary judgement against the plaintiff trustee, finding that the trustee lacked standing to bring the action because the trust was already terminated. Although unclear from this opinion, apparently the defendants in this case argued that the trustee was attempting to unduly extend the winding up period for the trust by commencing litigation after the trust’s termination date. The Fourth DCA disagreed, and reversed the trial court finding that the trustee did in fact have standing to file his lawsuit after the trust termination date. First, trustees have the statutory authority to prosecute claims under 2004->Ch0737->Section%20402#0737.402″>F.S. § 737.402. Second, and most importantly, if the trust’s beneficiary doesn’t think the winding up period is being unduly delayed by the litigation, the party being sued certainly doesn’t have the right to argue this point. The Fourth DCA summed up this point neatly as follows:
After a trust terminates, a winding up period is usually necessary. See Hamilton v. Donahue, 847 So.2d 1112 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003). Even if the beneficiary may have the right to complain that a winding up period is being unduly extended by litigation brought by the trustee, the party sued does not. The summary judgment was thus erroneous.