final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Charles M. Greene, Judge; L.T. Case No. PRC
A. Herb of the Herb Law Firm, Chartered, Boca Raton, for
F. Luken of The Andersen Law Firm, Fort Lauderdale, for
Appellee Paula M. Minassian.
H. Benson of Bradham, Benson, Lindley, Blevins, Bayliss &
Wyatt of Florida East Coast, P.L.L.C., Fort Lauderdale, for
Appellee The Andersen Law Firm, P.C.
decedent's adult children, Rebecca Rachins and Richard
Minassian (hereinafter the "children"), appeal a
partial final order dismissing multiple counts of their
Amended Trust Complaint on the ground that they lacked
standing to bring any claims against Paula Minassian, who was
the decedent's wife at the time of his death, or against
the Andersen Law Firm, the attorneys who prepared the
relevant trust document. We reverse, concluding that the
children are qualified beneficiaries of the Family Trust and
therefore have standing to challenge the wife's
administration of the Family Trust.
the salient facts of this case are set forth in our opinion
in Minassian v. Rachins, 152 So.3d 719 (Fla. 4th DCA
2014). Zaven Minassian (the "husband") executed a
Restatement of Trust in 2008, which superseded an earlier
1999 trust document. Id. at 720. In the 2008
Restatement of Trust document (the "original trust
document"), the husband created a revocable trust (the
"original trust"), which would become irrevocable
upon his death. Id. The husband and the wife were
the sole trustees of the original trust. Id.
husband died in 2010. Id. Because the wife survived
the husband, and because the federal estate tax was not in
effect at the time of the husband's death, the original
trust document directed that all remaining trust property be
distributed to a Family Trust. Id. at 721.
original trust document empowered the wife, as trustee, to
distribute income and principal of the Family Trust to
herself, in her sole and absolute discretion, for her
"health, education, and maintenance." Id.
Upon the death of the wife, the Family Trust would terminate,
and the remainder of the Family Trust would be divided into a
separate trust share for each of the children. Id.
after the husband's death in 2010, the children filed a
complaint against the wife, alleging that she was improperly
administering the Family Trust. Id. at 720. The wife
moved to dismiss the children's complaint, arguing that
they lacked standing because they were not beneficiaries of
the Family Trust. Id. at 721. The children countered
that they had standing because the trust provisions did not
create a new trust, but instead created separate shares in
the existing Family Trust for each child upon the wife's
death. Id. The trial court denied the motion to
wife later appointed a "trust protector," as
allowed by the terms of the original trust. Id. at
722. The trust protector was authorized to amend the
provisions of the original trust if the amendment would
either benefit the beneficiaries or further the husband's
probable wishes. Id. Accordingly, the trust
protector purported to amend the original trust to clarify
that, if there was any property remaining upon the death of
the wife and the termination of the Family Trust, the
remaining property would be disbursed to a new trust to be
created for the benefit of the children. Id.
children challenged the validity of the trust protector's
amendments, and both sides eventually moved for summary
judgment as to the validity of the amendments. Id.
The trial court found that the original trust document was
unambiguous, that only one trust (the Family Trust) was
intended after the husband's death, and that the trust
protector had no authority to change the terms of the
original trust. Id. at 720, 723, 725-26. The trial
court therefore entered partial summary judgment for the
children on the issue of the validity of the trust
protector's amendments. Id. at 723.
appeal, the only issue before our court was whether the trust
protector's amendments were valid. Id. at 720
n.1. We reversed the trial court's order, holding that
the original trust document was ambiguous as to whether the
husband intended to create a single trust or separate trusts
for the wife and children, that the trust protector was
authorized to amend the trust to correct ambiguities, and
that the trust protector's amendments were valid.
Id. at 724-27.
found that "the single-trust interpretation reached by
the trial court does not appear to be unambiguously supported
by the trust document." Id. at 726. We reasoned
that the provisions of the trust were conflicting and that
"the overall structure of the trust contemplates
something separate and apart from the Family Trust."
Id. at 726. We further found that the original trust
document was "patently ambiguous on the issue of whether
a new trust is created, where the language in the trust
instrument dictates that the Family Trust terminates on the
death of the wife." Id. We then reviewed the
uncontradicted evidence in the record as to the husband's
The trust protector testified in a deposition that he met
with the husband twice, first in person to discuss his estate
planning desires, and second over the phone to discuss and
execute the documents he had drafted. During the
husband's life, the husband and wife's "lives
revolved around horse racing and legal gambling," and,
in the trust, the husband wanted "to provide for [the
wife] in the way they had lived in the past. . . ." The
plan was "to create a separate Trust for the benefit of
his children" which "would be created only if the
Family Trust described in Article 10 . . . was not exhausted
during [the wife's] lifetime[.]" The purpose of
Article 10, Section 7 and Article 11 was "to assure that
the Family Trust was not in any way associated to a new Trust
that might be created for his children." The trust
protector also stated, "This challenge by the children
is exactly ...