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Breach Of Fiduciary Duty And Florida Estate Law


Unless you operate a family business, then you usually keep work and family separate.  You might have conflicts with family members about matters such as splitting the cost of family gatherings or about the wealthiest member of a family contributing to the educational expenses or other means of support for members of the younger generation.  For the most part, though, your money is your business, and in some families, people disclose few details about their financial circumstances to any family members other than your own spouses.  You have probably never seen your siblings’ tax returns, and if you did, what you saw would probably surprise you.  With your family, unlike at work, your actions are not dictated by the bottom line.  That all changes during probate.  When you are the personal representative of an estate, your children, siblings, nieces, nephews, and step-relatives start bossing you around and accusing you of harming their financial interests.  This is as stressful as it sounds, and if it happens to you, an Orlando probate lawyer can help you cope with it.

What Does It Mean When a Personal Representative of an Estate Has a Fiduciary Duty?

Fiduciary duty means a legal responsibility to act in the best financial interests of a person or entity; a person who takes on these duties is called a fiduciary.  If you have ever had a job that involved handling money, then you had a fiduciary to your employer; it was your responsibility to make sure that there was the correct amount of money in the cash register at the end of the workday and that everything else got deposited in your company’s bank account.  Agents in power of attorney relationships are fiduciaries, and so are trustees of trusts.  Banks have a fiduciary duty toward the customers who bank with them.

The personal representative of an estate has a fiduciary duty to the estate and to everyone who has a legitimate claim to money from it.  This is why the personal representative must notify creditors that the estate is open for probate, and why the personal representative must include the estate’s heirs in discussions about the sale price for assets that the estate must sell.

What Is Breach of Fiduciary Duty?

Various kinds of misconduct by the personal representative of an estate can be considered breaches of fiduciary duty.  An obvious example is if the personal representative of the estate steals money from the estate, but the beneficiaries can also allege breach of fiduciary duty if the personal representative draws a salary for his or her duties as personal representative, and the beneficiaries think that this is unnecessary or that the amount is excessive.  Allegations of breach of fiduciary duty can also arise from disputes over settlement of the estate’s debts or sale of the estate’s assets.

Contact Gierach and Gierach About the Fiduciary Duty of Personal Representatives

A probate lawyer can help you protect yourself from allegations of breach of fiduciary duty during probate.  Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.



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