Executors of an estate have a responsibility to fulfill their fiduciary duties, meaning they must follow through with the estate administration tasks required of them in a legal and ethical manner. While serving as an executor can be stressful, people who are experienced and trustworthy often perform the job diligently and successfully.
However, some executors breach their fiduciary duty, which can have serious consequences for everyone involved in the administration process. The signs of fiduciary wrongdoing can be subtle, but if you know where to look, you can hold the executor responsible for their actions.
1. Missing or mixed assets
An executor’s main job is to manage the assets in an estate and distribute those assets to their rightful beneficiaries. This involves keeping the estate assets separate from each other and from the executor’s own private assets so that they go to the right people.
However, if you are not receiving your inheritances, this could be an indication of commingling assets. This means that the executor is combining and mixing estate assets with each other or with their own personal assets.
2. Conflicts of interest
An executor may also be a beneficiary. However, it becomes a conflict of interest when the executor makes decisions that benefit solely themselves, not the other beneficiaries. If you notice that the estate executor shows interest in another party, or that the funds or assets in your estate go toward the executor or a relative or friend not listed as a beneficiary, it’s probably a breach of fiduciary duty.
3. Insufficient record keeping
Executors must keep carefully detailed records of every transaction that occurs throughout the administration process. This includes any money or assets coming into the estate, and subsequently any money or assets leaving or being distributed. If the executor cannot produce the paperwork upon request, or if you notice any discrepancies in the records yourself, this may be a problem worth looking into.
Take action after a breach in fiduciary duty
If you feel an executor has broken your trust and committed a fiduciary wrongdoing, don’t hesitate to notify someone. Your loved one’s estate is at risk with a self-interested executor at its head. By taking action against them, you can protect your loved one’s estate from further damage.