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Know your options if you don't trust a trustee

Being assigned the role of estate administrator, trustee or other fiduciary is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. A person in these positions is expected to act in the best interests of another person and carry out that person's wishes in the event of death or incapacity. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of these roles and breach their fiduciary duty.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that there is a big difference between not liking what a fiduciary is doing and believing he or she is breaching a fiduciary duty.

There are numerous legal complexities to consider when it comes to supporting a claim that a fiduciary duty has been breached. It is not going to be enough to say that you disagree with what a trustee is doing; you will need to establish that he or she is not acting in the best interests of the represented person.

For example, let's consider a situation where a fiduciary uses money from a trust or estate to make some investments. These investments turn out to be unsuccessful and there is significant financial loss, affecting the value of a trust and/or inheritances for others.

If the fiduciary's investment was reasonable and in line with the wishes of the represented person, there may be no indication a breach occurred.

However, if the fiduciary made investments that were self-serving, reckless and not in line with the wishes of the represented person, there may be grounds to claim that there has been an improper exercise of power.

In cases where breaches have occurred, immediate action can be crucial. Removing the breaching party from a position where he or she has access to and control of financial resources can prevent future asset loss and mismanagement.

Between the various federal and state laws governing fiduciary duty and the significant toll estate administration procedures can take on a decedent's loved ones, arguments involving breaches of fiduciary duty can get very contentious and complicated. If you have questions or concerns about potential breaches, it can be wise to consult an attorney as soon as possible to examine the situation and assess your legal options. Doing so can protect a trust, a decedent's wishes and the financial stake others have in the administration of an estate.

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