Trustees play a critical role in administering trusts but they also have to uphold a high level of ethical responsibilities and fiduciary duties. It is the responsibility of a trustee to ensure that the trust serves the purpose for which it was created, that records and trust documents are appropriately maintained, and that all assets belonging to the trust are financially managed properly.
Although many trustees recognize the importance of serving in this role and take their responsibilities seriously, others are not familiar with these responsibilities or directly violate them. When a trustee is not performing as they should there are avenues for removing them from this role including filing a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit with the help of a trust litigation lawyer. A trust litigation attorney in Vermont is the first person you should speak to when you believe that a trustee has violated the terms of the trust and when you have already attempted to resolve things with the trustee directly.
What Is a Fiduciary Duty?
Trustees have a legal responsibility known as a fiduciary duty and there are three of them that they owe to the beneficiaries and to the trust. The first is a duty of loyalty, meaning that they have a duty to act in the best interests of the trust at all times rather than pursuing the interests of others or their own self-interest. The second of these is a duty of impartiality. When there are multiple beneficiaries on a trust, a trustee cannot support one beneficiary over another. They must administer the trust in a way that does not give anyone preference. The final fiduciary duty is duty of care, meaning that the trustee has to carefully manage the assets and finances of a trust, acting as a prudent investor would in maintaining these trust assets.
What Choices Do We Have When a Breach Occurs?
Speaking to a trust litigation attorney in Vermont is one of the best ways to determine whether or not you have grounds for a breach of fiduciary duty claim. Trustees can violate the above listed duties in a few different ways and this could end up in a legal dispute filed by a Vermont trust litigation attorney. Some of the possible breaches include:
- Failing to account for trust assets or provide appropriate documentation when asked.
- Co-mingling trustee funds with the trust funds so that it is unclear whether or not the trustee is upholding their legal financial responsibility.
- Consistently taking losses or allowing trust assets to go to waste by failing to manage them properly.
- Allowing beneficiaries or co-trustees to act in a way that is inconsistent with the terms of the trust.
- Creating conflicts of interest between the trustee interests and what is best for beneficiaries.
If you believe that a trustee has already violated these rules you may need to bring a breach of fiduciary duty claim. You need to show several things in order to be successful which is why it is important to retain an experienced lawyer.
First of all, you will need to show that there is a fiduciary relationship between the claimant and the trustee, that the trustee breached their duty to the claimant and that the claimant sustained an injury as a result of that breach. Those people wanting to file suit for breach of fiduciary duty violations must do so within a reasonable timeframe, otherwise they could miss out on the opportunity to recover compensation. Schedule a time to speak with an experienced and dedicated lawyer as soon as possible since you have many different things to worry about and may need the support of an experienced attorney to guide you through this legal process.