Executor & Administrator Breach of Fiduciary Duty

Executors and administrators have a duty to act in the best interests of an estate and the beneficiaries outlined by a will. RMO Lawyers has over two decades of experience in handling breach of fiduciary duty cases. We provide guidance for executors and administrators in navigating these duties as well as for beneficiaries who have been impacted by a breach of fiduciary duty.

What is Fiduciary Duty?

A fiduciary duty is a legal obligation that one party has to another to act in their best interests. This duty is typically seen in relationships where there is a power imbalance, such as between the executor or administrator and beneficiaries of an estate.

Fiduciary duty requires that executors act in the best interests of the estate while preserving the wishes of the decedent, and a breach of this duty threatens the rights of beneficiaries of the estate.

If an executor violates this duty, they open themselves up to potential lawsuits or litigation from interested parties in the will. Our lawyers will help interested parties identify cases of breaching fiduciary duty and represent them in seeking resolution.

What Is Executor & Administrator Breach of Fiduciary Duty?

Executors and administrators in the probate process are considered fiduciaries and, as a result, have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries as they manage the estate. These duties include managing assets, paying taxes on the estate, and keeping beneficiaries informed. A breach of fiduciary duty represents a failure of these individuals to uphold these duties.

There is no one-size-fits-all example of a breach of fiduciary duty, and a violation can look different depending on the case.

Common Breach of Fiduciary Duty Disputes

A breach of fiduciary duty can take many forms and lead to a variety of potential disputes, including cases of self-dealing or mismanagement of estate assets. RMO’s breach of fiduciary duty attorneys provide legal representation in all of the following scenarios.

Conflicts of Interest

A conflict of interest occurs when a fiduciary acts in their own personal self-interest rather than in the interest of the estate, including self-dealing of assets, accepting gifts from beneficiaries, or engaging in transactions that benefit them personally over benefitting the estate. RMO Lawyers will help identify potential conflicts of interest and seek an appropriate resolution.

Mismanagement of Estate Assets

An executor or administrator might mishandle estate assets by failing to maintain proper records of the assets, comingling funds, or making unauthorized transactions or distributions with these assets. Our team at RMO Lawyers can monitor the management of estate assets and gather evidence of potential mismanagement while seeking restitution if necessary.

Failure to Act Impartially

Bias or favoritism in the estate administration process can act against the rights and interests of beneficiaries and prevent the true wishes of the testator from being carried out. RMO Lawyers can help beneficiaries suspecting impartial actions assess the legality of an administrator’s actions and pursue litigation if necessary.

Neglect of Duty

Executors and administrators are expected to carry out several duties, like providing detailed accounting to the state and beneficiaries, keeping beneficiaries reasonably informed of changes to the estate, paying relevant taxes, and responding to creditor claims. A neglect of these duties results in potential penalties to the estate and opens the fiduciary up to litigation.

Misappropriation of Funds

Personal representatives have designated control over funds to ensure the estate is managed appropriately, and power may be misused for the fiduciary’s own private gain. Our attorneys will investigate your case to ensure that funds are allocated properly and in alignment with the trust.

Failure to Disclose Information

Part of a fiduciary’s duty is to disclose important information surrounding an estate and maintain transparency throughout the administration process. RMO Lawyers can represent clients in instances where a fiduciary fails to disclose information they should share with interested parties, like actions against the estate or accounting documentation.


Fiduciaries may wrongly engage in transactions or manage assets to benefit themselves at the expense of the estate’s beneficiaries. Our attorneys will help uncover evidence of self-dealing and build a case to ensure clients are protected against fiduciary mismanagement of assets in the estate.

Fraudulent Conduct

Fraudulent conduct among executors and administrators can include embezzlement, forgery, or other deceptive practices for personal gain. The attorneys at RMO can help clients uncover fraudulent conduct and build a case against the fiduciary to ensure the rightful distribution of assets.

Understanding Fiduciary Duty

Fiduciary duty is a legal obligation that requires individuals in positions of trust or authority to act in the best interests of others, particularly when handling financial or legal matters on their behalf. When it comes to administrators and executors of estates, fiduciary duty is paramount. These individuals are entrusted with managing and distributing the assets of a deceased person’s estate according to the terms of their will or state intestacy laws if there is no will. As fiduciaries, administrators and executors are held to the highest standard of honesty, loyalty, and care in carrying out their duties.

Their fiduciary duties encompass a range of responsibilities, including gathering and safeguarding the deceased person’s assets, paying debts and taxes owed by the estate, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries. They must also maintain accurate records of all estate transactions and keep beneficiaries informed about the estate’s administration process.

One of the most critical aspects of fiduciary duty for administrators and executors is the duty of loyalty. This duty requires them to prioritize the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries above their own personal interests. They must avoid any conflicts of interest and refrain from self-dealing or benefiting personally from their position as fiduciaries.

Additionally, administrators and executors have a duty to exercise reasonable care and prudence in managing estate assets. This duty of care requires them to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the investment, management, and distribution of estate assets, considering the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Overall, fiduciary duty imposes strict obligations on administrators and executors to act with integrity, diligence, and accountability in administering the affairs of a deceased person’s estate. Breaching these duties can have serious legal consequences, including removal, monetary penalties, and potential civil liability.

If an executor violates this duty, they open themselves up to potential lawsuits or litigation from interested parties in the will. Our lawyers will help interested parties identify cases of breaching fiduciary duty and represent them in seeking restitution.

Consequences of Breach

Breaching one’s fiduciary duty as an administrator or executor can have serious consequences, including legal liability and financial penalties.  Fiduciary duty requires these individuals to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries with honesty, integrity, and competence. If an administrator or executor breaches this duty by mismanaging estate assets, self-dealing, or failing to fulfill their responsibilities properly, they may be held personally liable for any resulting losses suffered by the estate or beneficiaries. 

When an administrator or executor breaches fiduciary duty in California, consequences may include removal from their position and surcharges (financial penalties) imposed by the court. Legal provisions encompass a range of recoverable damages in breach of fiduciary duty cases. These damages span compensatory, punitive, and potentially double or treble damages. 

In Texas, breaching fiduciary duty as an administrator or executor can result in similar consequences. These may include removal as fiduciary, monetary damages, and legal actions to recover any losses incurred by the estate or beneficiaries due to the breach. 

RMO Lawyers represent both beneficiaries and heirs to pursue their fiduciary breach claims as well as defend those wrongfully accused of breach of fiduciary duty. 

How RMO Lawyers Can Help

With two decades of legal experience, our breach of fiduciary attorneys at RMO Lawyers can support executors, administrators, and beneficiaries in breach of fiduciary duty cases while maintaining a strong attorney-client relationship. 

We’ll use our concern for client interests and a compassionate approach to either seek appropriate restitution with a case against potential breaches of fiduciary duty or avoid these breaches altogether.

When Should I Contact An Attorney For Executor & Administrator Breach of Fiduciary Duty?

A breach of fiduciary duty case can be complicated, and uncovering a breach of fiduciary duty is not always straightforward. A breach of fiduciary duty attorney can be a valuable resource in this process. 

You should contact a breach of fiduciary duty attorney if:

  • You suspect an executor or administrator of a conflict of interest
  • You are an executor or administrator seeking more clarity on your responsibilities
  • You have not received accounting or reporting from your executor or administrator
  • You believe that an executor is acting against the interests of the estate planning documents
  • You are an executor or administrator who has been accused of breaching their fiduciary duty

A knowledgeable probate dispute lawyer can review each case and determine whether a breach has been committed. If a violation has occurred, that probate litigation attorney can also advise on whether the case is worth pursuing and the best strategy to address the breach.

In some circumstances, a lawsuit for breach of fiduciary duty may be warranted, while others may be more efficiently resolved by simply removing the fiduciary from their position. No matter what legal recourse you pursue, you will have the best chance of success if you work with an experienced probate litigation attorney. 

Ultimately, if you have any questions about fiduciary duty, schedule a consultation with our team here at RMO to learn more about your case. Whether you are a fiduciary in need of a defense against claims of a breach of duty or you are a beneficiary concerned about the management of an estate, we can offer guidance in the process.

Our Case Results

RMO has a proven track record of protecting people and defending legacies.

Summary Adjudication of Disinherited Beneficiary’s Trust Contest
Swiftly secured the dismissal of a trust contest of a disgruntled, disinherited trust beneficiary on a motion after strategically allowing the trust contest period to expire before serving a notice of proposed action to distribute trust assets to the trust’s remaining beneficiaries and nothing to the disinherited beneficiary.
Secured Family’s Business Legacy
Representing the successor family trustee, secured the generational family business for the decedent’s heirs by acquiring from a disgruntled beneficiary their interest in the family business on extremely favorable terms that will allow the family to continue operating the family business for future generations to come.
Defense of Financial Elder Abuse Claim Against Surviving Spouse Trustee
Successfully defended a surviving spouse trustee against financial elder abuse and other claims made by family members who said she had fraudulently transferred assets to herself from her late husband’s trust and estate.
Prevented Trustee Removal for Badly-Lawyered Trust Accounting
Staved off suspension, removal and surcharge for a trustee who had failed to properly or timely provide court-ordered trust accountings to trust beneficiaries and was staring down an imminent deadline, as well as suspension, removal and surcharge.
Trustee Removal for Fraud
Neutralized and secured removal of a hostile co-trustee who was attempting to bilk our client’s trust of millions of dollars through a series of fabricated claims.
Thieving Trustee Removed and Surcharged
Secured removal of a thieving co-trustee daughter whose malfeasance left her own mother destitute and unable to pay her bills, including recovery of the stolen assets, attorney fees and costs.
Trust Beneficiary Dispute Squashed & Partition Avoided
Swooped in on behalf of an institutional trustee after years of protracted litigation to secure a decision from the Los Angeles probate court to end a years-long dispute between feuding siblings over the distribution of their parents’ estate, avoiding distribution of assets in-kind, which would have only resulted in partition.
Sub-Trust Allocations Defended
Client’s mother survived step-dad and succeeded him as trustee of their family trust. After mom passed, step-dad’s children alleged she had improperly allocated trust assets to favor her survivor’s trust, which went to our client, over the marital trust, which went to step-dad’s children. Using historic appraisals and valuations, demonstrated the disputed allocation was reasonable, resolving the dispute.
Inept Trustee Removed & Client Appointed Successor Trustee to Save Estate
Non-responsive and ineffective trustee who had done little to nothing to administer the trust or protect trust assets from waste following decedent’s passing was removed and our client appointed as successor trustee by the probate court, avoiding further damage.
Racist Trustee Removed and Surcharged
Removed and obtained surcharge of a non-beneficiary family trustee who hurled racial epthets at our client, refused to account, and tried to sell the house intended for our sole trust beneficiary client out of spite, securing the home for our client and her family.
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Who Can Hire A Breach of Fiduciary Duty Lawyer?

Because a breach of fiduciary duty can negatively impact multiple parties in a trust, any interested party can benefit from the support of an experienced attorney. It’s important to note, that only individuals owed a fiduciary duty can pursue legal action for breach of fiduciary duty. At RMO Lawyers, we support all the following clients in breach of fiduciary duty cases.


Beneficiaries have a right to assets as laid out by a will, and a breach of fiduciary duty presents a direct threat to these rights if a fiduciary fails to uphold the will’s instructions. RMO Lawyers can support beneficiaries in cases of a breach of fiduciary duty by building a case against and helping secure access to their rightful inheritance.


Heirs who believe their rights to an inheritance have been threatened by a breach of fiduciary duty. Our attorneys can uncover evidence of a breach of fiduciary duty and build a case against an executor or administrator if necessary to secure an heir’s rights.


A breach of fiduciary duty, like negligence or a mismanagement of assets, can prevent creditors from collecting their rightful claims to assets. Our team of lawyers at RMO will offer support for creditors seeking to collect debts by assisting them in asserting their claims and raising a dispute against a fiduciary in cases of wrongful actions.


Executors and administrators accused of breaching their fiduciary duty may seek the support of an attorney to defend their position. Our team of attorneys can help build an effective defense against breach of fiduciary duty claims. We can also offer guidance in understanding key duties to avoid these disputes in the first place.


Be advised that the RMO Client Relations Team will reach out prior to your scheduled time, as our policy requires that we gather additional information concerning the parties to your case before we can confirm your consultation. In the event that we are unable to reach you, regrettably, we will need to cancel your requested consultation.

Communication Disclaimer

Please note that communications by you to RMO LLP or any of its lawyers through this website do not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Do not send any privileged or confidential information to the firm through this website or otherwise until instructed in writing from us to do so. 

Executor & Administrator Breach of Fiduciary Duty FAQs

Yes, an executor or administrator can be removed from their position for a breach of fiduciary duty. When an executor or administrator fails to fulfill their fiduciary obligations, such as by mismanaging estate assets, acting against the best interests of the estate or its beneficiaries, or engaging in self-dealing, interested parties may petition the court to have them removed. The court has the authority to remove an executor or administrator and appoint a replacement if it determines that their continued service would be detrimental to the estate or its beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries should gather evidence of the alleged misconduct and consult with a probate attorney to assess their options. Depending on the severity of the breach, they may file a petition with the probate court to remove the executor or administrator, seek recovery of misappropriated assets, or take other legal action to protect their interests.

While hiring a breach of fiduciary duty estate attorney may mitigate the risk of potential claims, it cannot ensure you avoid a potential claim. A knowledgeable attorney can help executors and administrators fulfill their duties in accordance with the law, minimize the likelihood of errors or misconduct, and provide guidance to issues before they become potential disputes at all.

If you are a fiduciary and considering hiring an attorney to oversee your responsibilities, please schedule a free consultation to see how we can help.

There are several warning signs that may indicate potential breaches of fiduciary duty by an executor or administrator.

Lack of Transparency or Communication – If the executor or administrator fails to provide timely and accurate information about estate assets, transactions, or distribution to beneficiaries, it may indicate a lack of transparency and raise concerns about their management of the estate. If a fiduciary stops communicating with you, that may be a cause for concern as well.

Delay or Inaction – Delays in initiating the probate process, paying debts and taxes owed by the estate, or distributing assets to beneficiaries without valid reasons may suggest negligence or intentional misconduct by the fiduciary.

Conflicts of Interest – Any actions by the executor or administrator that benefit themselves or other parties at the expense of the estate or its beneficiaries can be a red flag for potential breaches of fiduciary duty. This includes self-dealing, favoring certain beneficiaries over others, or engaging in transactions that involve personal gain.

Mismanagement of Assets – Misuse or mismanagement of estate assets, such as investing imprudently, neglecting property maintenance, or failing to secure valuable assets, may indicate incompetence or negligence on the part of the fiduciary.

Failure to Act in Beneficiaries’ Best Interests – If the executor or administrator makes decisions that clearly do not prioritize the best interests of the estate or its beneficiaries, it may suggest a breach of fiduciary duty. This could include ignoring the terms of the will, disregarding beneficiaries’ rights, or favoring personal interests over those of the estate.

If you believe a breach of fiduciary duty is occurring or has occurred, beneficiaries and interested parties must remain vigilant and promptly address any concerns or suspicions regarding the actions of the executor or administrator. If you find yourself in this position, it is advisable to consult with an experienced probate attorney to help assess the situation and take appropriate steps to address potential breaches.


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