Breach of Fiduciary Duty
A fiduciary duty is, among other things, the obligation that an individual has to act in the best interests of another party and to make full and complete disclosure of all material facts. They are often said to have to act in the best interest of the beneficiary even if it is contrary to their own interests. A fiduciary can breach their duty by taking deliberate steps that will benefit themselves and otherwise hurt the person who was meant to be protected by such a relationship. For example, actions made in direct contrast with the best interests of a beneficiary could be classified as a breach of the fiduciary's obligations. In terms of probate and estate litigation, fiduciary duty applies to a trustee's obligation to fulfill the duties owed to the beneficiary of a trust and an executor / administrator's obligation to fulfill the duties owed to the beneficiary or heirs of an estate. Relationships that include fiduciary obligations only work when the individual (the fiduciary) can be relied upon to exercise the appropriate discretion necessary when acting on behalf of the heir or beneficiary. Often described as the highest duty known under the law, nothing short of complete care and good faith will be acceptable when one acts as a fiduciary.
How do I know if a duty has been breached?
When a person agrees to serve as a trustee, executor, or administrator, they will be expected to live up to their fiduciary duties and have everything they do subject to review.
As the beneficiary of an estate or a trust, in most instances, you are legally entitled to information regarding the estate or trust and depending on what information is obtained you can ask the court to hold the fiduciary accountable in the event that they do not live up to his / her responsibilities.
Because of the complexity of this area of the law, it is not uncommon to wonder whether or not a breach of fiduciary duty has occurred. There are many instances in which a beneficiary has believed that his / her rights were violated, when the matter turned out to be nothing more than a misunderstanding between both of the parties involved. There have been other cases, however, in which substantial breaches occurred and legal action was necessary to remedy the wrong.
Elements Involved in Taking Legal Action
One of the most important components in any fiduciary relationship should be ensuring that both parties involved have a thorough understanding of the rights, duties and obligations expected of such a relationship. If you have any reason to believe that a breach of fiduciary duty has occurred, it is of the utmost importance that you immediately involve a skilled and knowledgeable probate attorney who can help you take the necessary steps to handle the matter appropriately. Likewise, if you serve as a fiduciary, you should not take any action without consulting an experienced probate lawyer to advise you of your duties and obligations.
Different mechanisms exist that provide attorneys and their clients the ability to determine if a legitimate breach has been made without requiring litigation; however, to implement these techniques you will need the help of a qualified professional. In the event that harm was caused by the breach of fiduciary duty, litigation may be necessary, in which case an experienced lawyer will be needed to guide you through this complex area of the law.
Whether you are the victim of a breach of fiduciary duty or you have been accused of such unlawful behavior, you will better served with the help of a licensed attorney. Only with the experience and knowledge of a seasoned lawyer will you be able to successfully bring to light the nuances involved in your case to effectively prove your claims or defend yourself if your actions as a fiduciary have been challenged. Calloway, Norris, Burdette & Weber, PLLC can help you to protect your rights as a beneficiary or help you to defend yourself as a fiduciary accused of breaching your obligations.