Breach of Fiduciary Duty

A fiduciary is a person that assumes a special relationship of trust, confidence and responsibility for obligations to others. Executors, administrators and trustees are examples of those who have a fiduciary responsibility to beneficiaries. Fiduciaries are charged with carrying out the asset distribution set forth in a will or trust. They are not allowed to benefit from the estate/trust’s assets to the detriment of the beneficiaries they are entrusted to protect. Fiduciaries should also be knowledgeable about and capable of whatever financial transactions are necessary to carry out the proper allocation of assets (in the case of trustees, they should also have the financial ability to reimburse the Trust in the event that they make serious financial mistakes).

Beneficiaries of an estate can sometimes object to the actions of the fiduciary and initiate legal action against him or her. Fiduciaries that have acted inappropriately in the administration of an estate can face a breach of fiduciary duty suit which can result in the fiduciary having to provide comprehensive accounting information regarding the estate’s or trust’s assets, the fiduciary’s removal and even criminal prosecution.

  • Grounds for a breach of fiduciary duty suit include misconduct such as:
  • Removal of property from an estate without approval.
  • Transfer of assets from the estate to the fiduciary during the administration process (i.e. a fiduciary selling himself/herself estate property); also called self-dealing.
  • Financial negligence in the handling of the estate’s assets during the administration process including failure to properly invest and account for assets.
  • Failure to conclude the estate administration process in a timely manner. Failure to provide necessary information to beneficiaries and other interested parties.
  • Failure to correctly execute the instructions left in the will/trust agreement.
  • Lack of cooperation between co-fiduciaries that severely hampers the administration of an estate.

When the fiduciary’s negligence or fraud results in a financial loss to an estate or trust, a surcharge may be imposed. In these cases the court may fine or surcharge the fiduciary for breach of duty and direct the fiduciary to personally make financial reparations to the estate, trust or the beneficiaries.

The Law Office of David A. Esquibias is a firm that understands the difficulties facing parties involved in estate litigation proceedings. Our legal team has extensive litigation experience successfully representing clients disputing the administration of trusts or estates and prosecuting breach of fiduciary obligation actions. We understand the frustration that can occur when an estate’s assets are abused by fiduciaries or when a beneficiary is denied the inheritance he or she rightfully deserves. We litigate cases of this nature in all of the Superior Courts in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

If you suspect that an estate’s assets have been handled incorrectly, unfairly or illegally or have not received the inheritance that you believe you deserve, please contact us at 805-267-1141, or send an immediate e-mail inquiry.