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Fiduciary duties in probate administration explained

by Russell Aldrich | December 23, 2019

The executor of an estate can be sued for failing to adequately perform duties

The law imposes duties on people in a variety of circumstances. Everyone who drives a car, for example, has a duty not to drive negligently. The failure to do so can result in litigation if a careless or negligent driver causes injury or death to another. Depending on the circumstances, the negligent driver may even face criminal charges.

Texas law sets a high bar regarding the duties of an executor of an estate. The executor has a fiduciary duty to an estate, and to its beneficiaries, when settling an estate plan. A fiduciary is someone in a position of trust and power, and the law recognizes this and so places an added burden on that person or institution to act with honesty, integrity, good faith, fairness and loyalty. An executor must place the interests of beneficiaries and the estate first when making decisions as to the distribution of an estate.

Just as a negligent driver can get into trouble for violating traffic laws, so too can a fiduciary become legally liable if they do not perform their duties as required by law. A beneficiary who loses investment income because of a mismanaged trust, for example, may file a lawsuit against the trustee for breach of fiduciary duty.

The legal duties of an executor

When administering an estate, an executor must give notice to creditors and pay the debts of the estate. The executor must also gather all assets together, prepare and file tax returns, distribute assets and close the estate. At all times, the executor must account for all assets of the estate and distribute money and assets in accordance with Texas law and the provisions of the will.

Delaying payment to beneficiaries, hiding and mismanaging assets, and a host of other deceptive, unfair or negligent actions by an executor can result in litigation.

Breach of fiduciary duty

Litigation is often the last resort for beneficiaries who have been wronged by the actions of an executor. However, if an executor has violated his or her fiduciary duties, it is often the only option to protect the rights of beneficiaries.

At the Aldrich Law Firm, PLLC, beneficiaries can get the legal representation they need to ensure their rights are being upheld throughout the probate process. If litigation is necessary, the Aldrich Law Firm, PLLC can provide accountability to the executor or trust administrator to ensure that all fiduciary duties are being upheld.