When a person chooses someone to be the executor of an estate, this person is placing a lot of confidence and trust in the executor. An executor’s job is to manage the estate and distribute assets of the decedent.
An executor has a fiduciary duty, which the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute describes as acting in a way that financially benefits someone else. This requires a lot of responsibility, and the wrong person for the job could take advantage of the situation.
Primary duties of a fiduciary
A fiduciary has particular duties, along with the specific tasks that being an executor requires. There is a duty of loyalty, in which the executor must not bring personal issues into the task. There is a duty of care, in which the executor must do whatever is necessary to protect the interests of the decedent.
A duty of good faith means the executor will not violate the law. There are also duties of prudence, confidentiality and disclosure.
Qualities of a good executor
AARP describes many of the tasks an executor is responsible for. Because of these duties, the qualities of a good executor include organizational skills, integrity, honesty, financial responsibility and impartiality.
Examples of breach of duty
If the executor does not act trustworthy and uses any of the estate’s assets for his or her own benefit, this is a breach of duty. Some examples include:
- Misappropriating funds
- Selling assets at prices that do not benefit the estate
- Failing to take actions regarding beneficiaries’ requests
- Acting in self-interest rather than in the interest of the beneficiaries
- Missing deadlines for time-sensitive actions
If you suspect that the executor had a breach of duty that resulted in monetary loss, you may be able to take action to recoup this money.