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4 signs an estate executor is breaching their fiduciary duty

| Mar 11, 2020 | Firm News |

After the loss of a loved one, emotions and tensions tend to run high. During the probate process, the proverbial manure can really hit the fan if expectations for a beneficiary’s inheritance aren’t met or other complications arise. One of those complications might be an issue with the executor—the person entrusted to settle the estate. It is this individual’s role to follow the instructions laid out in the will, to settle any debts and taxes and then distribute the remainder to the beneficiaries as directed. But what if the estate executor’s actions prove questionable?

What qualifies as a breach of fiduciary duty?

A breach of fiduciary duty is when the executor fails to follow the directions of the will, acts outside your best interests or skims off the top of the estate. Any breach of fiduciary duty is actionable by law. If a breach occurs, you can hold an executor liable both financially and civilly via probate litigation.

Warning signs

What might tip you off to a breach of fiduciary duty? Here are four signs to watch out for.

  • They fail to provide adequate information. A main facet of the executor’s role is to act in the best interest of the deceased and the beneficiaries. If the executor fails to relay important information or shares misleading information that could have consequences for the estate, they are breaching fiduciary duty.
  • They fail to disclose any conflicts of interest. A fiduciary is held to certain standards. In the course of their duties, they must tell you if anything exists that could cause them to act outside your best interest.
  • They fail to give proper documentation when asked. If you have suspicions and request to see documents that detail their work with the estate and money is unaccounted for, this is cause for concern.
  • They fail to explain their actions. If the fiduciary is secretive about their actions as fiduciary, it may mean they are not to be trusted.

If you are concerned about an executor’s behavior, don’t wait for things to get bad. Ask for documentation and, if necessary, consult a lawyer about your options.

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