What Is a Breach of Fiduciary Claim in Probate?
A breach of fiduciary claim can occur in probate when a personal representative or trustee fails to fulfill their legal duties and obligations to the beneficiaries of an estate or trust. A fiduciary is a person appointed to manage the assets of another person or entity, and is required to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
The fiduciary’s duties include managing the assets of an estate or trust, distributing assets to beneficiaries, and providing an accurate and transparent accounting of all financial transactions related to the estate or trust. A breach of fiduciary claim can arise when the fiduciary fails to fulfill any of these duties.
There are several types of fiduciary duties. One is the duty of loyalty which implies that the fiduciary will always act in the best interests of the beneficiary or principal. Duty of care is another. It means that a fiduciary will take special care to make sound, sensible decisions regarding a beneficiary’s well-being. No conflicting interest will be permitted to influence the fiduciary’s actions on behalf of the client. Duty to disclose is a third. It refers to the duty a fiduciary has to disclose any conflict of interest they may have when acting on behalf of a beneficiary.
Breach of fiduciary duty
Investopedia goes on to say, “Case law indicates that breaches of fiduciary duty most often happen when a binding fiduciary relationship is in effect and actions are taken which violate or are counterproductive to the interests of a specific beneficiary.”
A breach of fiduciary duty can take many forms, including mismanagement of assets, self-dealing, and failure to distribute assets. If a beneficiary believes that a fiduciary has breached their duty, they can file a breach of fiduciary claim in probate court.
To prove a breach of fiduciary duty in probate, the beneficiary must demonstrate:
- The fiduciary had a duty to act in their best interests
- The fiduciary breached that duty
- That the breach resulted in damages to the beneficiary
What are the types of breaches of fiduciary duty?
There are several ways a fiduciary can breach their duties, including these three:
- Mismanagement of assets is a common type of breach of fiduciary duty claim in probate. This can occur when a fiduciary invests assets in a way that is not in the best interests of the beneficiaries, or when they fail to properly maintain or protect the assets. For example, if a personal representative invests estate funds in a high-risk investment that results in significant losses, this could be considered a breach of their duty.
- Self-dealing occurs when fiduciaries use their position to benefit themselves, rather than the beneficiaries. For example, if a personal representative uses estate funds to pay for personal expenses, or if a trustee purchases property from the trust at a below-market price, this could be considered self-dealing.
- Failure to distribute assets can occur when a fiduciary fails to distribute assets to the beneficiaries in a timely manner, or when they withhold assets that should be distributed. For example, if a personal representative fails to distribute a specific bequest to a beneficiary named in the will, this could be considered a breach of their duty.
If a beneficiary believes that a fiduciary has breached their duty, they can file a breach of fiduciary claim in probate court. The court will consider the evidence and determine whether a breach of fiduciary duty has occurred. If so, the court may remove them from their position and order the fiduciary to compensate the beneficiaries for any losses that resulted from the breach.
It is important to consult with an experienced Chattanooga probate litigation attorney if you believe a fiduciary has breached their duty to you or a loved one. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options and can help you navigate the complex probate litigation process. They can also help you gather evidence to support your claim and represent you in court if necessary.
Breach of fiduciary duty claims in probate can be complex and emotionally charged. If you believe that a fiduciary has breached their duty, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and help you protect your rights and interests.
How can a probate litigation attorney help with my claim?
A probate litigation attorney can be helpful in many ways when it comes to a breach of fiduciary claim. Here are some ways they can assist:
- Evaluate your claim. A probate litigation attorney can review your claim and determine whether it has enough merit to move forward. They will examine the evidence, review any relevant documents, and interview witnesses to assess the strength of the claim.
- Represent you in court. If your attorney determines that there is a valid claim, they can represent you and/or your family in court. They will draft and file the necessary legal documents and present evidence to support your claim.
- Negotiate a settlement. If the other party is willing to settle, your attorney can negotiate a settlement that is fair and reasonable. They will work to protect your best interests while also avoiding a potentially lengthy court trial.
- Provide valuable legal advice. Your attorney can provide you with legal guidance on your rights and obligations. They can also advise you on the best course of action to take to protect your interests.
- Help navigate the legal process. Probate litigation can be a complex and confusing process. A probate litigation attorney can help navigate this process and ensure you meet all deadlines and legal requirements.
Your Chattanooga probate litigation attorney can be an invaluable resource if you have a breach of fiduciary claim. Top of Form
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