Custodial accounts may be created under the Florida Uniform Transfer to Minors Act, see §710.101, et seq., Fla. Stat (2018) (the “UTMA”), so that an adult (the “custodian”) is placed in charge of a minor’s funds until the minor reaches the age of 18 years. Such an account is frequently utilized by parents as part of a general estate plan or is the result of divorce proceedings in which the parents agree to set aside funds for their child or children.
Under the UTMA, a custodian of a minor’s assets has a general fiduciary duty of care of uncommon for a custodian to misappropriate the funds for his or her own benefit. To protect a minor from a custodian’s breach of the fiduciary duty or theft, the UTMA specifically authorizes a family member (including a parent) to petition a court for the removal of a custodian, to require the custodian to account for custodial funds, and for the imposition of liability against the custodian personally for misuse of the custodial property. Otherwise, a custodian who misappropriates funds may be held liable under Florida’s civil theft statute (§ 772.11) for three times the amount of funds misappropriated, together with attorney’s fees and court costs incurred by the plaintiff.
The process of initiating custodianship litigation is rather straightforward and consists of preparing the petition and serving it on the custodian, who then has 20 days in which to file a written response with the Court. Thereafter, the petitioner usually subpoenas the account records and sets the case for a final hearing. The Court then makes findings of fact and determines whether the relief sought in the petition should be granted.
If you’re in doubt about your rights or need representation relating to a custodial account, contact Fort Lauderdale trust litigation lawyers at (954) 440-0901 to assist you with your dispute. The Fort Lauderdale trust litigation lawyers at The Carlin Law Firm, PLLC regularly represent individuals and probate, trust, and guardianship litigation and can assist you with seeking an accounting from or removal of a custodian.