If someone names you as an heir in his or her Florida will, you may not realize that the deceased’s estate administrator likely will have to first take the estate through probate. You may also not know that if the administrator fails to properly perform his or her administrative duties and thereby financially damages you or the estate, you can sue for breach of fiduciary duty.
When the administrator agreed to serve as will executor and subsequently became the administrator of the deceased’s estate, (s)he became a fiduciary. This means that (s)he must at all times act in the best interests of the estate and its heirs. If (s)he deliberately fails to do so, you have grounds to sue.
You need to keep in mind that the law does not expect the administrator to be perfect. A simple and inadvertent mistake does not constitute a breach of fiduciary duties. Nor does an innocent poor choice on how to invest the estate’s assets. Fiduciary breaches only occur when the administrator knowingly fails to act in the best interests of the estate and its heirs.
For instance, the administrator breaches his or her duties by knowingly doing one of the following:
- Fails to file an estate tax return at the proper time
- Fails to give you complete and accurate information about the estate
- Fails to treat you equally with the other heirs
- Fails to act in the estate’s best interests and instead acts in his or her best interests
Proof of fiduciary breach
To prevail in your breach of fiduciary suit, you will need to prove the following:
- That the decedent named the administrator as his or her executor in his or her will
- That the decedent’s will specified the duties the executor, and therefore the estate administrator, needed to perform
- That the administrator knowingly failed to perform one or more of these duties
- That the administrator’s knowingly bad actions financially damaged you
If you can prove these items, you can expect to recover your damages, plus interest. You may also be able to recover your litigation costs, including your legal fees.