COVID-19 has complicated many aspects of life, including how estates are handled after a loved one passes. Though many Americans have revamped their estate plans to prepare for the unthinkable, many families are now battling concerns of undue influence and breach of fiduciary duty claims.
These may be unsettling times, but the bottom line is this: the executor of a loved one’s estate has a responsibility to follow the plans as established.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty in COVID-19 Era
An executor of an estate may be found guilty of breach of fiduciary duty when he or she acts in their own interests and not in the estates; misappropriation of assets occurs; failing to respond to beneficiaries of the estate; or failing to comply with estate administration laws.
While it will be up to the beneficiary or beneficiaries to show breach of fiduciary occurred, there are certain acts to be mindful of in the COVID-19 era.
- Mistakes can happen, but breaches are explicit. COVID-19 has proven to be difficult for many of us. When a loved one passes, there are additional emotional elements that may come to the surface. However, your emotional strain should not welcome criminal intent. If the executor of the estate is lying about funds or hiding information, do not let them mask it as a simple accounting error.
- Lack of communication can be a red flag. Life is moving forward, but when the executor isn’t responding to messages or is avoiding handling the estate altogether, you need to ask questions and assert your rights in this situation.
- If the feelings of the beneficiaries do not matter to the executor, question their end goal. People handle grief differently. But if the executor is cold to the beneficiaries and begins to behave in a self-serving manner–for example, skimping on funeral details to save money of the estate–it is valid to have concerns.
Breaches of fiduciary duty can be complicated, but you don’t have to ignore these red flags. As the beneficiary of an estate, you have a right to what is yours.
Damages for Successful Breach of Fiduciary Duty Case
If you are successful in your breach of fiduciary duty case, you may receive damages for the assets owed, as well as punitive damages if the breach was committed out of malice or through fraudulent activity.
COVID-19 and Breach of Fiduciary Duty: Know Your Rights
COVID-19 has ravaged our world in ways unimaginable. But now, as you handle the loss of a loved one, do not let someone take advantage of you.
If you believe that an executor or trustee in Nashville has breached his/her fiduciary duty, the probate litigation attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC can help. Our firm is dedicated to making sure those put in a position of trust act accordingly. If you need legal guidance with any trust or estate issue, now is the time to act. Contact us today or call us at 615-800-7096 to set up an appointment.