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Q&A: "My Husband has an Irrevocable Trust with Property Left by his Deceased Parents. The Bank Holding the Trust Changed the Locks on his Father's House without my Husband's Consent. Is this Legal in Florida?"

Estate Matters

Question: 

My husband has an irrevocable trust in which he has 1% interest on property left by his deceased parents. Now the bank holding the trust changed the locks on his father's house without my husband's consent. Is this legal in Florida?

Larry's answer: 

Trustees have the authority and responsibility to manage a Trust for the best benefit of the Trust's beneficiary(ies). Since your husband has only a 1% interest in the Trust property, that means he's a minority beneficiary...and what's in his best interest may or may not line-up with that of the other beneficiaries.

Is the bank's Trust Department serving as Trustee on this? If so, then they (the bank Trustee) probably do have authority to change locks on the house. Unless the Trust document requires it, a Trustee generally does not need to ask permission of the beneficiary(ies) to take action within the scope of their Trustee responsibilities. 

The questions you'll want answered include:

  • Who is the Trustee?
  • What is the bank's relationship to the Trust?
  • What Trustee powers or limitations are spelled out in the Trust document? (this is important)
  • Why did the bank change the locks on the house? Do they think they're protecting the property for the beneficiaries?

For specific advice on whether it's legal (or legal in Florida), you'll want to contact an attorney who's licensed to practice in Florida. 

Hope that helps. All the best.

Originally posted on NerdWallet's Ask an Advisor on June 10, 2014.