Rights and responsibilities of estate planning fiduciaries in Ohio

During the difficult time after the loss of a loved one, those appointed to administer the estate do not always perform their duties as they should.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult times of a person's life. The emotions associated with grief, combined with the turmoil funeral arrangements and family gathering planning create, can be overwhelming.

For many, the stressful time continues for many months - sometimes years - afterwards as surviving family members work together to settle their loved one's estate and go through the Ohio probate process. Unfortunately, strained family relationships and confusion regarding the administration of the estate can lead to disagreements or questions regarding the loyalty and trustworthiness of those in charge.

Fiduciary responsibilities

An individual appointed by the settlor - the person who created the estate plan - has a high level of responsibility. A person or entity placed in this position of trust as part of an estate plan may be the executor or personal representative of the settlor's will, or a trustee or successor trustee of a trust created by the settlor.

All of these types of appointments in an estate plan create a fiduciary relationship, and the person or entity entrusted to act on behalf of others must properly execute the duties and responsibilities as a fiduciary.

The fiduciary is not only obligated to those entitled to assets from the estate - the beneficiaries -, but the estate assets as well. Even if the appointed person is also a beneficiary of the estate plan, he or she must manage the assets of the estate - such as property, investments and money - for the benefit of all the beneficiaries.

Duties of a fiduciary of an estate plan typically include the following:

  • Identify and provide notice to the beneficiaries and creditors of the estate
  • Identify and locate the deceased person's assets
  • Pay taxes and debts of the deceased person and the estate assets
  • Manage the assets of the estate until they are distributed
  • Take the estate through the probate process
  • Distribute the assets as appropriate

When a fiduciary fails to properly perform the responsibilities required by his or her appointment, he or she may be sued for breach of fiduciary duty. Any beneficiary may bring a lawsuit if there is reason to believe that the fiduciary has broken the law. Examples of breaches often include the following:

  • Mismanaging or concealing assets
  • Paying him or herself more than allowed by Ohio laws or by the estate plan
  • Failing to maintain proper accounting or regular communication
  • Distributing assets unfairly or contrary to the estate plan

After the death of a loved one, you want to be able to trust those placed in positions of responsibility. However, disagreements and acts of disloyalty arise, which may require the assistance of legal help.

Consult an attorney

If you believe that an executor or trustee has violated his or her fiduciary duties to you as a beneficiary - or you are a fiduciary defending yourself from a beneficiary's claim - consult an experienced estate fraud lawyer. An Ohio attorney knowledgeable about defending and pursuing claims against estate fiduciaries can help.

Keywords: estate planning, fiduciary