What is fiduciary duty?

When you take on the duties of administrator of someone’s estate or trustee of someone’s trust, you become a fiduciary. FindLaw explains that as such, you must work for the best interests of the heirs or beneficiaries in all that you do. If you fail to do so, the heirs or beneficiaries can sue you for breaching your fiduciary duty. 

No one expects you to perform your fiduciary duties perfectly and without mistakes. To rise to the level of fiduciary breach, you must deliberately do such things as the following: 

  • Act in your own best interests rather than those of the heirs or beneficiaries 
  • Provide the heirs or beneficiaries false, misleading or inadequate information 
  • Do something that negatively impacts the value of the estate or trust 
  • Favor one or more of the heirs or beneficiaries over the others 

Fiduciary breach proof 

To win a fiduciary breach lawsuit, the plaintiff(s) must present clear and convincing evidence of the following: 

  • That the decedent’s will or the grantor’s trust named you as the executor/administrator or trustee 
  • That the will or trust enumerated what fiduciary duties you should perform 
  • That you deliberately failed to perform those duties, thereby negatively impacting the estate and its heirs or the trust and its beneficiaries 
  • That the heirs or beneficiaries sustained financial loss(es) because of your fiduciary breach 

Should the plaintiff(s) win his, her or their lawsuit, the judge and/or jury almost assuredly will require you to pay restitution. You may also have to pay interest from the date of your breach, plus the attorneys’ fees of the plaintiff(s). If the judge or jury believes that your fiduciary breach was an especially egregious one, you could have to pay punitive damages on top of the actual damages sustained by the plaintiff(s).