An executor of an estate is essentially responsible for managing affairs relating to the estate. From filing tax returns to paying off debts, the executor must always make sure that he or she is acting in the best interests of the decedent and the estate. Specifically, the executor has an obligation to the beneficiary of an estate to ensure that they receive the assets or inheritance they are entitled to receive within a reasonable time.
Breach of fiduciary duty
Under New Jersey law, executors have a legal obligation to act in good faith and maintain transparency with regards to important estate matters. When an executor puts their own interest ahead of the beneficiary’s interest, they have breached their fiduciary duty. Some examples of breach of fiduciary duty include:
- Misappropriation of estate funds or assets
- Concealing material information or engaging in deception
- Paying themselves excessive fees for acting as executor
- Missing tax deadlines
What happens if an executor breaches their fiduciary duty?
If an executor breaches their fiduciary duty, they may face both civil and criminal penalties. Anyone with a legal interest in the estate, including beneficiaries, can file a petition with the court to have the executor removed from their position. They can also file a civil claim against the executor for monetary damages sustained by the estate as a result of the executor’s actions.
Because executors are given a great deal of responsibility, they are often required to use their own discretion when making decisions. As a result, it can be difficult to determine whether they are acting inappropriately. If you believe an executor has acted in their own self interest and has caused your harm as a result, consider consulting with an estate litigation attorney as soon as possible.