Crescenze v. Bothe, — So.2d —-, 2009 WL 284858 (Fla. 2d DCA Feb 04, 2009)

Trust beneficiaries can avoid being sidelined in litigation involving their trusts by moving to "intervene" in the case under Civ.P. Rule 1.230. Here’s what the rule says:

Anyone claiming an interest in pending litigation may at any time be permitted to assert a right by intervention, but the intervention shall be in subordination to, and in recognition of, the propriety of the main proceeding, unless otherwise ordered by the court in its discretion.

As I’ve previously written, if a trust beneficiary doesn’t intervene in the case he or she will probably be stuck with the outcome [click here].

In the linked-to case the trust beneficiary did exactly what she was supposed to do, she filed a motion seeking to intervene in litigation involving her trust. The probate court denied her motion based on what most of us would say was an "unorthodox" reading of Florida’s probate code (proving once again that no matter how right you may be on the law, you can never predict with absolute certainty what will happen once you step through those courtroom doors). Here’s how the 2d DCA explained its rationale for reversing the probate court’s order:

On appeal, Crescenze argues that the circuit court erred in denying her motion to intervene. We agree. Crescenze is a beneficiary of the trust, and “Florida has long followed the rule that the beneficiaries of a trust are indispensable parties to a suit having the termination of the beneficiaries’ interest as its ultimate goal.” Fulmer v. N. Cent. Bank, 386 So.2d 856, 858 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980) (citing Byers v. Beddow, 142 So. 894, 896 (Fla.1932), which held that a court called upon “to dissolve or terminate a trust … must decline to act when there are, or may be, persons interested in the trust who are not before the court”). “Indispensable parties are necessary parties so essential to a suit that no final decision can be rendered without their joinder.” Sudhoff v. Fed. Nat’l Mortgage Ass’n, 942 So.2d 425, 427 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006).

Because Crescenze is a beneficiary of the trust and therefore an indispensable party to the action seeking to terminate or revoke the trust, we reverse the circuit court’s order denying Crescenze’s motion to intervene and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The circuit court concluded that Crescenze’s request to intervene was barred because it was not filed prior to the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations set forth in section 733.710(1), Florida Statutes (2005). However, it is clear from the language of the statute and its place in chapter 733 of the Probate Code that section 733.710(1) applies exclusively to claims against an estate in a probate proceeding and has no application in a civil action to terminate a trust. See also Henry P. Trawick, Jr., Trawick’s Redfearn Wills and Administration in Florida § 2:11 (2008-09 ed.) (recognizing that “[s]everal statutes of limitation apply only to probate matters” and discussing section 733.710).