Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Trustees Not Individually Liable For Costs In Florida Trust Dispute

By:  Jeffrey Skatoff, Esq.

In Grasso v. Grasso, Margaret and Michelle Grasso were sued “individually and as purported cotrustees” of the Olga Grasso Revocable Living Trust.  However, claims were only asserted against Margaret and Michelle in their capacities as trustees, not in their individual capacities. 

Because no claims were asserted against Margaret and Michelle in their individual capacities, the Florida appellate court ruled that “Margaret and Michelle were not parties to the trust action in their individual capacities” and the Florida trial court was not permitted to tax costs against Margaret and Michelle individually.  Suing a party in the correct capacity is critically important in Florida.  We have written about it before here.

Costs In Florida Trust Proceedings

In Florida trust disputes, costs are governed by section 736.1006, which provides that:

(1)    In all trust proceedings, costs may be awarded as in chancery actions.

(2)    Whenever costs are to be paid out of the trust, the court, in its discretion, may direct from what part of the trust the costs shall be paid.

In chancery actions, costs are awarded to the prevailing party.  In this case, Margaret and Michelle were not the prevailing parties in the trial court, and so costs were assessed against them.  But, since no claims were pursued against Margaret and Michelle individually, the costs should have been ordered to be paid from the trust.

Florida courts also have discretion to direct from what part of the trusts costs shall be paid.  However, the discretion is not unlimited.  The Florida probate code has a similar provision regarding fees and costs, section 733.106.  

Taxation of Costs Under Florida Law

The State of Florida has statewide guidelines governing the taxation of costs.  Costs that should be taxed are:

A. Depositions

1. The original and one copy of the deposition and court reporter‘s per diem for all depositions.

2. The original and/or one copy of the electronic deposition and the cost of the services of a technician for electronic depositions used at trial.

3. Telephone toll and electronic conferencing charges for the conduct of telephone and electronic depositions.

B. Documents and Exhibits

1. The costs of copies of documents filed (in lieu of ―actually cited‖) with the court, which are reasonably necessary to assist the court in reaching a conclusion.

2. The costs of copies obtained in discovery, even if the copies were not used at trial.

C. Expert Witnesses

1. A reasonable fee for deposition and/or trial testimony, and the costs of preparation of any court ordered report.

D. Witnesses

1. Costs of subpoena, witness fee, and service of witnesses for deposition and/or trial.

E. Court Reporting Costs Other than for Depositions

1. Reasonable court reporter‘s per diem for the reporting of evidentiary hearings, trial and post-trial hearings.

F. Reasonable Charges Incurred for Requiring Special Magistrates, Guardians Ad Litem, and Attorneys Ad Litem

Other costs, such as the costs and fees of a mediator, or travel expenses of witnesses, may be taxed as costs in a Florida trust dispute.

Jeffrey Skatoff is a Florida probate attorney.  To have Mr. Skatoff review your case free of charge, please go to his website.

Probate attorney Jeffrey Skatoff handles probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation.

Jeffrey H. Skatoff, Esq.

Probate, Trust & Guardianship Litigation

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