Fiduciary duty is the strictest duty under the U.S. legal system. A fiduciary is an individual in whom someone has placed the utmost trust to protect and manage their property and assets. The trustee or executor of your deceased loved one’s estate has a fiduciary duty to you as a beneficiary. If that duty has been breached, you may have been cheated out of a portion of your inheritance.
What Is Fiduciary Duty?
Trustees, personal representatives, and executors of estates are fiduciaries with certain duties to the principals — beneficiaries of the estate. Those duties include:
- Duty of Care: It is the fiduciary’s responsibility to control and manage the assets of the estate or trust. Assets must be secured and valued as soon as possible and safeguarded against damage or loss. There must be a clear accounting of all financial transactions available to the principals upon request. The fiduciary has a duty to use reasonable skill, caution, and care in managing the estate’s assets. Failure to do so could adversely affect the value of your inheritance.
- Duty of Loyalty: The duty of loyalty requires a fiduciary to act without personal economic conflict. There is to be no self-dealing, or acting for the fiduciary’s own personal gain. If the trustee or executor of your loved one’s estate is also a beneficiary, there is a potential for breach of this duty to the detriment of the other beneficiaries.
- Duty of Impartiality: Fiduciaries may not favor one or some beneficiaries over others. When the trustee or executor is a family member and also a beneficiary, family conflicts and self-interest can get in the way of impartiality and affect the decisions the fiduciary makes on behalf of the estate. When this occurs, it is a breach of fiduciary duty.
How Do I Find Out If I Have Been Cheated?
If you were not appointed executor, personal representative, or trustee and someone else is managing your deceased loved one’s estate, you are still entitled to information as a beneficiary. Ask the fiduciary for an accounting of all financial transactions. Find out if all taxes have been paid and if non-cash assets are insured and protected. Make sure that tax decisions, dates of distribution, and division of property do not favor some beneficiaries over others.
As a beneficiary of the estate, you have a right to determine if the estate is being managed properly and distributed according to your loved one’s last wishes. The executor or trustee has a fiduciary duty to you and the other beneficiaries, and you have the right to expect that duty to be upheld.
Legal Help for Breach of Fiduciary Duty in Florida
After learning what fiduciary duty is, if you find that the trustee or executor of your loved one’s estate has breached that duty, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced probate litigation lawyer. At Stern Zwelling, LLC, we focus our practice on estate planning and probate litigation matters. Contact us by email or phone to request a consultation. Attorney Ido Stern is happy to meet with you discuss how we can help.