High Caliber Legal Service

When can you file a claim over ‘breach of fiduciary duty?’

| Apr 28, 2021 | Probate & Estate Administration |

A fiduciary is an entity or individual that puts a client’s best interests ahead of their own. Fiduciaries often manage money or assets for people or groups and are legally bound to act in good faith while preserving trust.

Fiduciaries operate under a 19th-century term known as a “prudent person standard of care.” They are bound by strict legal and ethical requirements and can be held accountable when they breach that trust and act in their own or another party’s best interests instead of their client.

Examples of fiduciary relationships

Common business relationships involving fiduciary duties include:

  • Estate executors and beneficiaries (heirs)
  • Lawyers and clients
  • Trustees and beneficiaries
  • Investment companies and investors
  • Insurance agents and policyholders
  • Corporate board members and shareholders

In estate administration, the executor has the legal standing to manage a decedent’s property or assets and debt as they see fit on behalf of the estate.

Circumstances that warrant filing a claim

Examples of breach of fiduciary duty include the following actions by trustees and executors:

  • Embezzling estate funds
  • Failing to comply with contractual obligations
  • Commingling estate funds with personal funds
  • Causing harm through wrongful omission
  • Causing damages through a wrongful act
  • Acquiring funds through deceit, undue influence or fraud

Elements of a fiduciary breach claim

When a breach of fiduciary duty occurs, plaintiffs are tasked with proving four components:

  1. The fiduciary had a legal agreement and obligation to act in the best interests of the plaintiff
  2. The fiduciary violated that agreement
  3. The plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the violation
  4. The plaintiff must prove the breach of fiduciary duty caused the damages

Consequences for fiduciaries who violate these standards can range from damaged reputations to losing a professional license, receiving substantial fines and other penalties. If you are harmed during a fiduciary relationship, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced civil litigation attorney.

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