Once a person has accepted the appointment of a trustee, a fiduciary relationship is established between the beneficiaries of the trust and a trustee. Because the trustee is charged with the responsibility of managing the estate assets—which likely includes large sums of money—the trustee has a legal duty to act in good faith and in the best interest of all beneficiaries.
When an individual fails to uphold the specific duties trustees are required to do under the law, that trustee can be accused of breach of fiduciary duty in Georgia, which can include:
- Theft. This occurs when the trustee steals money from the estate or undervalues liquidated assets and pockets the difference.
- Fraud. This happens when a trustee sabotages the trust, accepts bribes, hides information, or uses the assets for self-interest.
- Excessive fees. Trustees are allowed reasonable fees for their services. When a trustee collects too much money for his or her time and efforts, the trustee may be guilty of charging the estate excessive fees.
- Incompetence. When a trustee fails to distribute the assets of the estate within a specified time, he or she can be guilty of incompetence or dereliction.
When trustees mishandle funds, invests money for their own interests, or fails to administer the trust properly, a trustee can face a surcharge action and removal as the trustee. In order for this to happen, the beneficiaries will want to bring a lawsuit alleging breach of fiduciary duty in Georgia. When fraud, theft, negligence, or incompetence has occurred and a trustee did not live up to the high standard of honesty and accountability that he or she was held to, beneficiaries need to seek legal counsel.
A Legal Claim for Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee may have occurred if an individual did not fulfill the legal obligation he or she was appointed to carry out. When an abuse of trust has happened, the trustee can be held legally responsible. Generally, a claim can be brought by any of the beneficiaries against the trustee. However, there are time limits for these types of claims, which is why it is important not to delay speaking with a lawyer about your concerns.
If you believe that a trustee is mismanaging the estate or abusing his or her position, you may have a right to pursue legal action against the trustee. Contact a lawyer to learn more about taking the proper action in your specific situation. For help, call a skilled Georgia trust litigation lawyer at the Law Offices of Shane Smith (770) 487-8999 for a consultation today.