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What is breach of fiduciary duty?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2021 | Estate Planning, Litigation

You place a lot of trust in the hands of an executor after someone dies. As a fiduciary, they have an obligation to fulfill a duty. In this case, to execute the deceased person’s will with accuracy and honesty. However, not all fiduciaries act with integrity.

 Examples of breach of fiduciary duty

In the case of estate administration, the executor is responsible for contacting beneficiaries and creditors, distributing assets and handling other various details. Most people do so in accordance with the law. There are times, though, when executors see an opportunity to serve their own self-interests instead of the deceased person’s. Some examples of breach of fiduciary duty in these instances can include:

  • Embezzling assets
  • Self-dealing
  • Omitting certain assets
  • Failure to contact beneficiaries
  • Commingling assets

It is a shame that someone trusted to handle something as delicate as a decedent’s estate would choose to disregard the responsibilities entrusted to them. Unfortunately, it happens all too often.

The options after a breach of duty

When you or another interested party discover that an executor breached their fiduciary duty, you have several ways to hold them accountable for their actions. One is to move to have them suspended or removed as executor. Another is to get them to pay a civil fine for their actions.

Finally, you can alert law enforcement and pursue criminal charges. This option is only available if you can prove the existence of unlawful activity such as theft, embezzlement, fraud or forgery. If you do not have the burden of proof that criminal activity took place, you could file a civil lawsuit. To bring a lawsuit against an executor, you must be able to prove that they owed you a certain duty, they breached this duty and it left you with damages.