Cite as D077561
Filed April 23, 2021
Fourth District, Div. One
By Jaime B. Herren
Holland & Knight LLP
- Accountings – Standing to Request
- Contested Matters – Evidentiary Hearing
Summary: The estate of a beneficiary has standing to demand an accounting; where there are disputed issues of fact the court may not dismiss without an evidentiary hearing.
Following the death of Erwin Mayer in 1995 a settlement agreement was entered into between family members and business entities. The agreement modified the terms of the Marital Trust whereby the decedent’s wife, Josephine, would be the sole income beneficiary and his daughter, Maria, would be the remainder beneficiary. The Marital Trust would be funded with Erwin’s interest in two businesses. Upon Josephine’s death in 1996 her estate petitioned for a trust accounting by Maria from Erwin’s date of death. Maria claimed that she was only nominally named trustee in the agreement, the Marital Trust had never been funded and the businesses had been defunct for over 15 years. Josephine’s estate contested these allegations and commenced discovery. The court dismissed the petition at a case management conference prior to Maria responding to discovery.
The appellate court reversed. Josephine’s estate, as her successor in interest, has standing to request an accounting from the Marital Trust. Further, the trial court erred in dismissing the petition without an evidentiary hearing. The trial court could not rely on Maria’s verified objection because the allegations were contested. Moreover, a trial court may not dismiss an action sua sponte and without notice when a factual dispute exists.