Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Those who are appointed to administer a trust or given power of attorney are tasked with many important obligations, including a fiduciary duty. If an individual accepts such an appointment and fails to live up to the fiduciary duties that are specified by statute, he or she can be held responsible through litigation. The compassionate trust and probate lawyers at the Dean Law Firm can help individuals in Ocala and beyond with these complex claims.Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Trustees, guardians, and personal representatives of an estate are all fiduciaries who owe a duty to observe high legal and ethical standards in Florida, or else they may face personal liability. Fiduciaries have a number of statutory duties under the state trust code set forth in Chapter 736, including loyalty, carrying out terms of the trust documents, avoiding conflicts of interest, impartiality, objectivity, good faith and fair dealing, administering a trust prudently and in the interests of beneficiaries, incurring only reasonable expenses for the trust, disclosing how much the fiduciary is taking in compensation, providing an annual accounting, revealing investment losses, and using special skills or expertise.
If there are multiple beneficiaries, these fiduciary duties are owed to all of them. The first duty is to carry out the intent of the creator of the trustee as described in the trust document. This means following the plain meaning of the language in the trust document and interpreting it reasonably.
Certain duties are abstract, such as the duty of loyalty, but they require the fiduciary to take a certain position towards the beneficiaries and make decisions accordingly. For example, the duty of loyalty requires a fiduciary to put the interests of the beneficiary ahead of the fiduciary's self-interest and to avoid exploiting the relationship for the fiduciary's benefit. Similarly, a fiduciary is required to use any special skills he or she may have for the benefit of the beneficiary.
A plaintiff suing for breach of fiduciary duty will need to show that a fiduciary relationship was established, there was a breach of that duty, and the breach of duty was the legal cause of the plaintiff's harm. How does a beneficiary, ward, or heir know that there has been a breach of fiduciary duty? Families should be worried and consider consulting an attorney when they suspect that a trustee, guardian, or personal representative is making improper investment decisions, self-dealing, taking excessive compensation, or borrowing or stealing assets, among other forms of suspicious behavior.
If sued, the fiduciary's usual defense is to show that his or her actions were appropriate under the bounds of the documents that establish the fiduciary relationship. For example, what a beneficiary believes is excessive compensation may not be considered excessive compensation by the court based on the complexity of the trust.Consult an Experienced Ocala Lawyer to Litigate a Trust Dispute
If you are an heir, beneficiary, or ward who suspects that you have become a victim of a breach of fiduciary duty, you can contact the estate planning attorneys at the Dean Law Firm. We serve clients in Ocala, Crystal River, The Villages, and other communities across Marion, Lake, Sumter, Levy, and Citrus Counties. The sooner we get involved, the sooner we can help you. Call us at 352-387-8700 or contact us via our online form to set up an appointment.