When personal representatives abuse their fiduciary duty

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2024 | Probate

Personal representatives of estates play a crucial role during probate. Their duties include managing the estate assets, paying outstanding debts and taxes and distributing assets according to the deceased’s will or state law.

Given the significant responsibilities and trust that comes with the role, personal representatives are legally obligated to always act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. In other words, personal representatives owe a fiduciary duty they must uphold throughout probate. However, it’s not always the case. 

A personal representative may abuse their position to financially benefit themselves or pursue other self-interests with your inheritance. As such, it helps to be aware of the signs of fiduciary abuse and the steps you can take to protect your interests as an estate beneficiary.

Signs of fiduciary abuse

A personal representative’s abuse of fiduciary duty can take various forms. They could steal from the estate, mismanage the assets or fail to pay pending bills as required. Some of the telltale signs of such financial misconduct include:

  • A lack of communication
  • Unexplained delays
  • Financial discrepancies
  • Favoritism
  • Conflict of interest, among others

Should you notice any of these red flags, taking swift action can help safeguard your inheritance. The first thing you ought to do is document the breach of fiduciary duty. Request an accounting from the personal representative to uncover any irregularities or misconduct and gather supporting evidence like bank statements and other relevant financial documents.

Remember, time is of the essence when dealing with such sensitive issues. You do not want to wait until it’s too late to undo the damage caused by a rogue personal representative. Seeking legal guidance can help you understand your options and take appropriate steps to address the matter. This may include suing the personal representative or relieving them of their duties, depending on the particulars of your situation.