When fiduciary abuse or breach of fiduciary duty occurs, it takes a skilled estate litigation lawyer to protect your beneficiary rights. Located in Morristown, E.A. Goodman Law, LLC represents beneficiaries of trusts and estates throughout New Jersey. We know how to hold fiduciaries accountable for their misconduct and work to help our clients recover mismanaged and lost assets.
If you have been the victim of fiduciary fraud or abuse, you need the informed representation we provide. Although we prefer to resolve disputes involving wills and trusts through negotiated settlements, we are fully capable of proving breach of fiduciary duty at trial. Our estate litigation lawyers have a proven history of achieving successful outcomes, inside and outside of the courtroom. Please contact our office today for a free consultation.
What is fiduciary duty?
A fiduciary is a person or professional entity in a position of trust and responsibility to someone else. Their fiduciary duty is to act in that person’s best interest. In terms of trust and estates, individuals with a fiduciary duty include:
- Estate administrators
- Agents under powers of attorney
As an example, the executor of a will has a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Similarly, a trustee has a fiduciary duty to adhere to the terms of the trust.
In any event, it is illegal for a fiduciary to act in a manner that harms the beneficiaries.
Moreover, an estate fiduciary’s duties include the following specific duties:
- Duty of care — An executor, trustee or other fiduciary is required to use care when managing the estate assets and do what a person in the same position would reasonably do.
- Duty of impartiality — A fiduciary must treat all beneficiaries equally and not favor one beneficiary over another.
- Duty of loyalty — A fiduciary must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries at all times, not him/herself.
What is Breach of Fiduciary Duty?
Breach of fiduciary duty can arise from incompetence or fraud. Before a breach can be proven, however, it is necessary to show that a fiduciary relationship exists. Obviously, an individual who has been designated as the executor of a will has a fiduciary relationship with the beneficiaries, much like a guardian has a fiduciary relationship with their ward.
To prove breach of fiduciary duty, it is necessary to demonstrate the fiduciary engaged in misconduct that resulted in damages (e.g monetary losses to the beneficiaries). While the breach may have been willful or intentional, it may also have been the result of poor judgment.
In particular, breach of fiduciary duty may involve mishandling estate assets, fraudulent transfers of property, and other unlawful conduct. Unfortunately, such breaches often go undetected until beneficiaries sustain losses. This is why it is crucial to work with an experienced New Jersey estate litigation lawyer.
At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, we routinely collaborate with a network of investigators and forensic accountants to uncover fraudulent transactions and work to hold responsible parties accountable for breach of fiduciary duty.
The Legal Remedies
The fiduciary of an estate has a high standard of care and must administer assets solely for the benefit of the beneficiaries. An executor, trustee or another fiduciary that fails to do so may face civil and criminal liability.
As the beneficiary of a trust or estate, you have a right to file a lawsuit to recover damages if you have been the victim of fiduciary abuse. In addition, the New Jersey courts have the power to impose additional penalties for breach of fiduciary duty, including:
- Ordering the removal/replacement of the fiduciary
- Denying the fiduciary’s right to collect fees
- Requiring the fiduciary to pay punitive damages
- Requiring the fiduciary of a trust to pay surcharges
When your beneficiary rights are at stake, turn to E.A. Goodman Law, LLC. Above all, we will work to protect the assets that were intended for you.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Estate Litigation Lawyers
Breach of fiduciary duty is a serious matter. When an executor or trustee fails to properly distribute estate assets to a beneficiary, the purpose of estate planning and the testator’s intentions are undermined. At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, we are committed to protecting the rights of beneficiaries. When you become our client, you can rest assured that we will always put your best interests first. Please contact our office today to speak with one of our estate litigation lawyers.