Probate Issues: What if a Personal Representative Breaches Their Fiduciary Duty?

Fri Apr 16, 2021 | Probate |

The personal representative named in a will has a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to the probate process. In a nutshell, this responsibility is referred to as their “fiduciary duty.” A fiduciary duty is the obligation to act in someone else’s interest rather than their own. Some of the most common probate disputes involve accusations that the personal representative has breached their fiduciary duty — in other words, the representative has failed to administer the estate in the best interest of the beneficiaries. 

Disputes over the alleged breach of fiduciary duty can be extraordinarily complex. There may be multiple parties with conflicting interests and competing claims, from disgruntled heirs to creditors seeking payment of a debt. Whether you are a personal representative or a beneficiary, you need an experienced Boca Raton probate litigation attorney on your side if you are involved in a dispute over the breach of fiduciary duty. 

Fiduciary Duty Explained

It may be easier to understand the personal representative’s fiduciary duty if we break it down into three parts: 

  • A duty of loyalty – This is the obligation to act in the interest of the beneficiaries and other interested parties.
  • A duty to account for and inform – Personal representatives have an obligation to provide an accounting of the estate and inform beneficiaries and other interested parties of the probate process at specific times.
  • A duty of prudence – The personal representative must administer the estate in a thoughtful and sensible manner.  

Failing in any of these regards can give rise to a fiduciary duty claim. If you think you may have a claim, a Boca Raton probate litigation attorney can evaluate your case. 

A Boca Raton Probate Litigation Attorney Can Help With Mismanagement Issues

Many fiduciary duty claims arise from the personal representative’s mismanagement of the estate. This could include things like failing to pay taxes or other obligations, resulting in unnecessary penalties and costs. It could also include failing to protect assets from creditors or failing to follow the directives contained in the will. Even if it was a simple mistake, a Boca Raton probate litigation attorney can determine whether the estate has been mismanaged to the point that you have a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. 

Dealing With a Personal Representative’s Wrongdoing

Malfeasance (or wrongdoing) occurs when a personal representative puts their own interests ahead of the estate’s beneficiaries. For example, they could take assets of the estate for their own personal use, commingle estate funds with their personal funds, or commit other fraudulent acts. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that the personal representative may be entitled to payment of their expenses from the estate. As a result, these cases can be difficult to prove, but a Boca Raton probate litigation attorney can help you build your case. 

Talk to a Boca Raton Probate Litigation Attorney Today

Fiduciary duty claims are some of the most challenging disputes for both beneficiaries and personal representatives. A seasoned Boca Raton probate litigation attorney from Ellis Law Group can help you navigate the dispute and get it resolved as quickly as possible. If you’re dealing with a fiduciary duty claim, you need to take action right away – contact us at 561-910-7500 to schedule an appointment today.