Are you a beneficiary of a deceased loved one’s estate? Has someone else been named as trustee, executor, or personal representative? That person has a fiduciary duty to you and any other beneficiaries to manage and distribute the estate with loyalty, care, and impartiality. If he or she has been careless or acted with partiality or self-interest, you may be the victim of breach of fiduciary duty, and you may need the counsel of a probate litigation lawyer.
What Constitutes Breach of Fiduciary Duty?
Trustees, executors, and personal representatives are fiduciaries who are bound under the strictest requirement of the law to act honorably, honestly, transparently, and in good faith at all times in managing and distributing an estate. When they fail to do so, their actions can have a negative impact on the estate and the beneficiaries. This amounts to a breach of fiduciary duty.
Fiduciaries can breach their duty in many different ways. Examples include:
- Taking no action regarding the estate
- Noncompliance with laws regarding state administration
- Failing to keep a clear record of all financial activities
- Co-mingling estate and personal finances
- Failing to respond to requests for information from beneficiaries
- Misappropriating money or assets from the estate for personal use
- Failing to pay taxes, provide insurance, and otherwise safeguard the estate’s non-cash assets
- Giving preferential treatment to some beneficiaries over others
- Acting with self-interest and disregarding the interests of the other beneficiaries
- Failing to distribute the estate according to the exact wishes of the deceased
Breach of Fiduciary Duty When Family Members Are Named As Executor or Trustee
When parents of adult children are planning their estates, it is common practice to name one adult child as executor, personal representative, or trustee. Unfortunately, families do not always get along well with each other. Sibling rivalry and resentment can enter into the picture and the sibling who was named as fiduciary may act in self-interest or with preferential treatment toward some beneficiaries over others.
If the deceased parent set up a living trust so the property could be distributed without court supervision, the sibling who was named as trustee has the legal power to administer the estate without a judge being involved in the process. When family conflict and resentment are involved, breach of fiduciary duty sometimes occurs in this unsupervised situation.
Legal Help for Florida Victims of Breach of Fiduciary Duty
If you suspect that the executor or trustee of your loved one’s estate has breached the fiduciary duty of care, impartiality, and loyalty, it would be wise to consult with an experienced probate litigation attorney. If the fiduciary has acted against your best interests, you may have recourse under the law.
Our practice at Stern Zwelling, LLC is focused exclusively on estate planning, probates, and probate litigation. Attorney Ido Stern has extensive experience successfully handling breach of fiduciary duty and a wide range of probate disputes and probate litigation matters. Contact us to find out about your options under the law and how we can help