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Understanding an executor’s breach of fiduciary duty

On Behalf of | Jan 17, 2023 | Estate Planning

Appointment as the executor of an estate comes with a responsibility to carry out the deceased’s wishes. Known as fiduciary duty, legal ramifications exist for breaching that duty. It is important to understand fiduciary duty and what it means to breach that duty.

Understand the importance of fiduciary duty and how to recognize a breach.

What is fiduciary duty?

Fiduciary duty is the responsibility that a named party, such as the executor of an estate, has to carry out the wishes and obligations of another party. They must act in the best interest of the estate.

What constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty?

Breach of fiduciary duty comes in a few different forms. An executor acting in their own self-interest and for their own financial benefit is breaching their fiduciary duty. An executor who overrides the decisions of the deceased and liquidates assets at an unfair price or makes irresponsible decisions is also breaching that duty.

Can you do anything about an executor breaching their duty?

Beneficiaries with a vested legal interest can file a lawsuit to have the executor removed for a breach of their duty. You must prove the breach in court with clear evidence of how this negatively affected the estate and your interests. The judge can appoint a new executor to honor the best interests of the estate.

An appointed executor has an obligation to the estate. Failure to honor that obligation is a breach that the courts take seriously. Understand the key elements of a breach of fiduciary duty to address the problem right away.