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Estate administration and fiduciary duty

It can be difficult to cope with the loss of a loved one. While the emotional turmoil involved can be heart-wrenching, the logistical realities of dealing with your loved one’s estate can be challenging and downright overwhelming. For many people, this is primarily because they’re unfamiliar with the process, meaning that they’re uncomfortable with their obligations as an estate administrator. But that’s why law firms like ours are ready to help guide individuals like you through this sometimes complicated process.

Why you need to know about the fiduciary duty

One of the biggest things that you need to know about in estate administration is the fiduciary duty. The fiduciary duty requires you, as the estate administrator, to put the financial interests of others before your own. This means that your decisions need to be made in the best interests of the estate and its named heirs and beneficiaries.

Seems simple enough, right? Well, the truth of the matter is that sometimes allegations are made that the fiduciary duty has been breached, which could leave you at risk of litigation.

Why allegations of fiduciary breach are made

People allege that the fiduciary duty has been breached for a number of reasons. Here are some of the allegations that are made in these circumstances:

  • Money has been misappropriated from the estate
  • The fiduciary has been acting in his or her own interests while disregarding the intent and desires of named beneficiaries
  • The fiduciary pays himself fees that are exorbitant in light of the circumstances
  • Estate assets are sold at unreasonably low prices, thereby leaving heirs and beneficiaries at a financial disadvantage
  • The fiduciary fails to respond to requests made by beneficiaries
  • The fiduciary fails to abide by certain deadlines imposed by the court or creditors
  • The fiduciary fails to adhere to applicable rules, laws, and regulations that may impact the estate

As you can see, there are a lot of ways that allegations of wrongdoing can be made, which is why you need to be extra careful as you engage in the estate administration process.

Protecting yourself in estate administration

To best protect yourself and ensure that the estate administration process plays out as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to make sure that you’re remaining in close contact with the estate’s beneficiaries so that you understand their intent and their wishes. You’ll also want to be well organized so that you can timely dispose of creditor requests and abide by accounting and court deadlines.

Carefully analyze all financial transactions, looking at them through the lens of the beneficiary to determine if they are really supportive of the estate’s goals and the heirs and beneficiaries who have been identified. You’ll also want to be clear and unbiased in all of your communications, making sure that you retain all communications to protect yourself later on.

Do you need guidance navigating the process?

We don’t write this blog post to scare you about estate administration. Instead, we want you to know the importance of knowing the law and how to properly navigate it as you administer your loved one’s estate.

We know that it can be stressful and even overwhelming at times, but this isn’t a process that you have to navigate on your own. Instead, you can choose to work closely with a legal advocate who is well-versed in this area of the law. With that support, you might be better suited to successfully administer the estate while protecting yourself from any allegations of wrongdoing.