Gossett v. Gossett

Gossett v. Gossett, 182 So.3d 694 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015)

In this decision on the equitable doctrine of "renunciation," the Court held that a trust beneficiary who challenged a trust document did not have to repay distributions made to him from the trust in order to challenge the trust document.  

Prior to the initiation of the litigation, the decedent's wife and trustee of his trust sent the decedent's son distributions under the last version of the trust, and intended that he accept the distributions to prohibit him from challenging the validity of the last version of the trust.  In his lawsuit to set aside the last versions of the trust, he renounced any interest he may have had in those trusts, but alleged that Florida law did not require him to return the money he had already received because he was entitled to an equal or greater amount under the prior versions of the trust.

The trial court held that the son was required to return all prior distributions before challenging the later versions of the trust.  The Appellate Court reversed, finding that the rationales for the renunciation rule do not apply to the distributions to the son.  First, renunciation protects the trustee if the trust is invalidated, which the Court held was not relevant here because the son was entitled to more than the distributions he received.  Second, renunciation is required to demonstrate that the lawsuit is sincere and not vexation.  The Court dismissed this rationale, stating that vexation and insincere claims are always present and no more so here.  Finally, renunciation is necessary to ensure that the property is available for disposition, which the Court held was not relevant since he was entitled to more than the distributed amount if he prevailed.  

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