Contesting Estate Administration Over Breach of Fiduciary Duties
When a friend or family member passes away, the last thing anyone wants to do is hash out estate legalities in court. In fact, surviving loved ones often frown upon those who contest a will or estate administration for this very reason, and anyone who raises an issue with the estate is often viewed as greedy and cold-hearted. Yet, sometimes contesting estate administration is necessary.
Oversights, errors, and efforts to profit from an estate could demand a will contest. Though the estate administrator is supposed to be a trusted loved one, greed and an attempt to preserve what is left of the deceased drive people to do unlawful things, such as stealing from the estate and leaving others out of it. When this occurs, it is referred to as a breach of fiduciary duty, and it can leave others bereft of what is rightfully theirs. If you suspect that an administrator is abusing his or her power of the estate, reach out to our Fort Lauderdale probate litigation lawyers at the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., to discuss your legal options today.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
At its most basic, a breach of fiduciary duty is a breach of trust. Your deceased loved one choose someone they knew well and trusted to manage and distribute the estate according to their wishes. When an executor fails to comply with a testator’s wishes, whether by mistake or in his or her own self-interest, he or she is guilty of both a breach of trust and a breach of fiduciary duty. When this happens, the courts must step in and intervene.
When a Breach is Unintentional
Managing an estate is an overwhelming responsibility, one that even the most competent individuals have trouble with. However, even the most competent individual may struggle with the details and demands of estate management during the grieving period. Because of this, mistakes happen. If a breach of duty occurs because of a mistake, resolving the matter may be as simple as pointing out the error and asking the trustee to correct it. However, depending on the scope of the mistake and whether or not the mistake was caught before or after the estate was distributed, the process may require court intervention.
When a Breach is Intentional
Unfortunately, just as many breaches stem from greed as they do from mistakes. Some administrators hide or steal assets to either keep for themselves or to sell for a profit once the estate closes. Other times, a trustee intentionally sells an item for far below its market value to a beneficiary for the purpose of splitting the profit with them later on. Intentionally breaching one’s fiduciary duty is illegal and does require court intervention. If the beneficiaries choose to, they can file a claim against the trustee for compensatory and punitive damages.
Contact a Lawyer When a Breach Occurs
If you believe that a trustee is misusing his or her power over a deceased loved one’s estate, reach out to a Fort Lauderdale probate litigation attorney right away. The longer you wait to draw attention to the issue, the greater the likelihood that the valuable and treasured assets end up in the wrong hand. Protect your loved one’s estate and contact the office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A., today.