Generally, people tend to have multiple documents that make up their estate plan. For example, they may have drafted a will which needs to go through probate. Or, they may have set up trusts which must be overseen by trustees.
Individuals tasked with implementing estate planning documents are appropriately subject to fiduciary duties. Essentially, this means that they must act within the best interests of the beneficiaries. The following types of behavior could constitute a breach of fiduciary duty that may warrant legal action against a representative, executor or trustee.
Fiduciaries are not supposed to make personal profits from their role. For example, while an executor can be a beneficiary, they are not entitled to sell estate property that has explicitly been left to others. They must distribute the property as instructed by the final wishes of the testator.
Fiduciaries are supposed to exercise good judgment when carrying out their roles. Incompetency can constitute a breach of fiduciary duty. For instance, if an executor uses assets from the estate to make investments that are objectively unsafe, this may constitute incompetence and even fraud if they had no legal basis to make these decisions.
Dealing with a fiduciary breach
Fiduciary breaches are actionable if the claimant can prove that a fiduciary duty existed, this duty was breached and the breach caused quantifiable damages. In some cases, a fiduciary can be removed from their role. Where financial damages have occurred, the claimant may be entitled to be placed back into the position they would have been if the breach had never occurred.
A breach of fiduciary duty is a serious issue that should be addressed promptly. To find out more about your legal options if any of these issues applies to you and your loved ones, it will almost certainly benefit you to seek further guidance.