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Three signs that the fiduciary duty has been breached

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2023 | ESTATE PLANNING - Estate Administration & Probate

The estate administration process can be more complicated than it seems. While the estate’s assets will have to be inventoried, creditors will have to be notified, and outstanding bills will have to be paid, the executor will also have to figure out asset distribution in accordance with the deceased’s estate plan.

Although that may sound straightforward, all too often, executors and trustees are accused of mismanaging or even outright stealing estate assets. These actions, if true, constitute a breach of the fiduciary duty, which is the duty to put the interests of someone else ahead of your own.

But how do you know if the fiduciary duty is being breached?

Very rarely are fiduciaries caught red-handed stealing estate assets. However, there are several red flags that may lead to that conclusion. This includes:

  • There’s inadequate recordkeeping: The estate’s accounting records should be clear and accurate. If they’re not, or if they’re missing, that may be an indication that the administrator or the trustee is trying to hide something.
  • Assets go missing: Some estate assets are going to have to be used to pay off creditors. But if assets go missing without justification, additional questions are going to come up that may lead to the conclusion that the fiduciary duty has been breached.
  • Assets have been commingled: Estate assets should be kept separate from those owned by the administrator or the trustee. If they’re commingled, it can be hard to tell where the estate’s assets have gone. This is one way that estate assets are often illegally converted for personal use.

Know how to effectively navigate the probate process

The fiduciary duty is just one of the complicated aspects of the probate process. If you want to learn more about what estate administration entails and what you can do to protect your interests throughout, now is the time for you to educate yourself as fully as possible and seek answers to your questions.