Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Breach of Fiduciary Duty and related Probate (Estate) and Trust Litigation in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota, Pinellas County, and surrounding West Florida areas.
In Florida, trustees and personal representatives (executors) are fiduciaries who owe a duty to a trust or estate, respectively, along with the beneficiaries thereunder. These fiduciaries, whether they are trustees or personal representatives, must maintain the highest duty of care in administering their respective duties.
The duties the trustee or fiduciary owes to the beneficiaries include the duty of loyalty, the duty of impartiality, the duty to prudently administer the estate, the duty to account, and the duty to act in good faith, among others. While there are various ways a trustee can violate his or her obligations, the basic principal is that a trustee must act within the best interest of the trust and its beneficiaries, rather than taking actions which serve merely to benefit the fiduciary.
Unfortunately, many non-professional trustees (and sometimes even professional trustees) do not fully understand their duties and obligations to the beneficiaries, and even worse, sometimes these trustees abuse their position for individual financial gain. Trustees can violate their duties by failing to account, making improper investments, charging excessive fees, entering into business relationships that constitute self-dealing or otherwise creating a conflict of interest, or even misappropriating trust assets. When these violations occur, it is up to you, the beneficiary, to hold the trustee or personal representative accountable for their actions.
To prevail on a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, the beneficiary must merely show that: (1) a fiduciary relationship exists, (2) a breach of that duty occurred, and (3) the beneficiary or beneficiaries were damaged by the breach. If successful, there are several remedies available to the beneficiary, which include, but are not limited to, compelling an accounting, surcharging the trustee for excessive fees, recovering trust and/or estate assets, removing the trustee or personal representative from their office, and even receiving a money judgment against the fiduciary for any malfeasance.
If you have concerns about potential breaches in regards to a trust or estate, please contact our office, as our attorneys routinely deal with trust and estate litigation within the courts of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota, Pinellas County, and the surrounding West Florida areas.