In 2013 the Florida Legislature enacted Fl. Stat. 736.202 to clarify when Florida courts have jurisdiction to hear disputes involving trusts. Lawyers refer to this type of statute as establishing “long arm” jurisdiction. The reason will become apparent.

The statute provides that any beneficiary of a trust having its principal place of administration in this state is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state to the extent of the beneficiary’s interest in the trust. Personal jurisdiction is established if the beneficiary accepts a distribution from a Florida trust. So, if nephew Rick in Seattle cashes a check from a Florida trust, he is subject to being required to litigate here in Florida if any dispute arises.

A recent court case confirmed the constitutionality of this statute. In that case, mom’s Florida trust made some distributions to a son in Wyoming. After mom died, his brother sued him in Florida, accusing him of exercising “undue influence” over his mother in order to get more than his fair share. The Wyoming son argued that it would be unfair to haul him into court in Florida when his only contact with the state was to cash a check mailed from here. But the court upheld the long reach of this statute and decided that son indeed could be sued in our fair state.

Out of state beneficiaries beware!

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