Because an incapacitated or deceased person cannot handle his or her own affairs, someone else is typically in charge of certain matters. For instance, a loved one may have appointed an executor to handle his or her remaining affairs in the event of death. If the chosen person accepts the role of executor, that individual now has a fiduciary duty.
Whether you are the executor or someone else with interest in the estate, it is important to understand fiduciary duty and what it means for someone to breach that duty. In cases of closing an estate, probate litigation could result if an executor breaches his or her duty.
The fiduciary duty puts an obligation on the person acting as executor to act solely in the interests of the deceased individual. Not only does this role create an obligation, but it also creates a legal duty, which means that legal consequences could result in the event that a breach of duty occurs.
Unfortunately, breaches of duty can occur if someone does not act in the best interests of your loved one, the surviving beneficiaries or the estate overall. The executor for your loved one’s estate may be acting in a way that raises your suspicions, such as not disclosing important information, neglecting his or her responsibilities, misusing funds, or otherwise misusing the power of executor. This breach of duty could cause harm to the estate and to you and other beneficiaries.
If you believe that an executor has breached his or her fiduciary duty, you may wonder what you can do. As mentioned, an executor has a legal duty, which means that you can take legal action to address breaches of duty. However, in order to file a legal claim and begin probate litigation, you will need to have legal standing — in this type of case, likely interest in the estate — and to have suffered damages as a result of the breach.
Because you undoubtedly want to ensure the following of your loved one’s final wishes and that you and the other beneficiaries do not suffer because of an executor failing at his or her duties, you may want to discuss your options with a California probate attorney. This legal professional can help you better understand fiduciary duty, whether you have standing and grounds to move forward with a case, and other useful information.