Executors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of the estate they are managing and its beneficiaries. This duty is based on trust, loyalty and good faith.
Unfortunately, some executors take advantage of their power and deliberately breach their duty, such as using the estate’s assets for their personal benefit. This is generally actionable and guilty executors are held liable.
But what if an executor unintentionally breached their duty? Can they still be responsible?
Yes, they can.
When holding executors accountable for breaching their duty, intention is not a requirement. A breach does not only result from an executor’s intentional misconduct, but also from their negligence, oversight, or even misunderstanding of the responsibilities involved.
For example, if an executor fails to manage the estate’s assets efficiently and properly, which results in the estate’s financial loss, then they can be liable for a breach, even if there was no ill intent.
If their carelessness results in harm to the estate or the beneficiaries, then executors can still be liable for their actions. Accordingly, heirs and beneficiaries can ask the court to remove the executor and hold them responsible for damages.
Your right to take action as a beneficiary
It is vital to understand that a breach of fiduciary duty can be deliberate or unintentional for a legal action to stand. Nevertheless, what constitutes a breach in these cases can vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case. Seeking advice from a knowledgeable legal aid can help you review your case and determine if you have a case against your loved one’s estate executor.