Executors and trustees have a large amount of responsibility with respect to the assets they manage and to the beneficiaries for whose benefit they manage such assets. However, with a high degree of responsibility comes a high degree of accountability. That accountability comes in the form of the fiduciary duties that trustees and executors owe to the beneficiaries of an estate or trust. Chief among those fiduciary duties are the duties of loyalty, care, impartiality, and disclosure.
One way that executors and trustees can breach their fiduciary duties is by engaging in fraud. Executor or trustee fraud occurs when the executor or trustee uses deceit to misappropriate estate or trust assets for themselves or someone else not entitled to receive them. Claims of executor or trustee fraud can have serious consequences, including holding the executor or trustee personally liable for the losses suffered by the beneficiaries.
Examples of ways that an executor or trustee can commit fraud against the beneficiaries include:
- Misappropriating assets of the estate or trust
- Withholding distributions from beneficiaries
- Distributing less than what a beneficiary is entitled
- Hiding or omitting estate or trust assets
- Failing to notify beneficiaries
- Falsifying liabilities
- Charging inflated fees
- Selling assets for below market value to someone connected to the trustee or executor such as a friend or family member.