It’s an unfortunate reality that the fiduciary who has been appointed to represent your interests can drop the ball on their responsibilities, abuse their power or breach their duties. If you believe a fiduciary has committed misconduct, a case can be built and brought against them.
Let a Keystone attorney help you navigate your fiduciary misconduct matter and find the best remedy to address your concerns so you can feel confident that your interests are being protected.
If you suspect fiduciary misconduct, it is crucial to act quickly to correct the problem, or the fiduciary could continue their problematic behavior and cause irreversible financial harm. Likewise, if you are a fiduciary who has been wrongfully accused of misconduct, it is important to retain counsel promptly to assist in your defense before the court issues any rulings adverse to your interests.
Keep reading to learn more about Keystone’s fiduciary misconduct services. If you continue to have questions or concerns, we recommend that you schedule a free consultation with our team.
Trustee or executor misconduct occurs when the fiduciary violates their duty of loyalty to beneficiaries/heirs by acting in bad faith and/or not placing their best interests first.
Examples of trustee/executor misconduct include:
Power of attorney misconduct occurs when the person who has been appointed as a principal’s attorney-in-fact through a power of attorney document abuses their power.
Examples of power of attorney misconduct include:
Conservator misconduct occurs when the person appointed to be the conservator of an incapacitated adult is not acting in their best interests and/or adequately protecting them.
Examples of conservator misconduct include:
Guardian misconduct occurs when the adult appointed to manage a minor’s personal needs and/or estate is failing to look out for the best interests of the child.
Examples of guardian misconduct include:
Spousal misconduct occurs when a spouse uses their position of confidence to act in bad faith and take advantage of their spouse.
Examples of spousal misconduct include:
The spouse is gifting community property without their spouse’s consent.
When a fiduciary is engaged in misconduct, beneficiaries’ and heirs’ inheritances are under threat. Keystone can help beneficiaries and heirs investigate their misconduct claim and bring litigation if necessary.
In the event a successor trustee has a claim brought against them for fiduciary misconduct, Keystone can defend them to help protect them against liabilities. Our team can also help trustees bring a claim against a former fiduciary of the deceased settlor who caused harm to their trust.
If an executor or administrator has been accused of fiduciary misconduct, Keystone can defend them and help protect them against liabilities. If there are concerns a prior fiduciary of the decedent financially exploited them, our firm can also help personal representatives bring a claim on behalf of the estate.
The authority attorneys-in-fact and health care proxies wield over the person they represent is governed by the specific terms of their contract. If there is evidence to show they defied these terms or abused their power, Keystone can help anyone with the authority to litigate on behalf of the principal bring a claim against the fiduciary. Our team can also defend attorneys-in-fact and health care proxies who have been wrongfully accused of misconduct.
Keystone represented a client in her 70s who unknowingly created an irrevocable trust while overly medicated by her son. After being appointed trustee, the son proceeded to abuse his role by misappropriating trust assets for personal gain, essentially leaving his elderly mother broke. At the initial hearing, Keystone’s probate attorneys persuaded the court to immediately suspend the son as trustee and replace him with a private professional fiduciary to serve as interim trustee. Ultimately, Keystone proved that their client had been unduly influenced by her son to execute a new trust that favored him. As a result, the trust was invalidated and the client regained control of her assets. Read full case study.
Keystone’s client was the sister of a decedent. She came to the firm for help getting appointed as the administrator of his estate, which was valued at $50 million. Keystone was successful in obtaining for its client an appointment as administrator; however, further litigation would be needed, as the client found evidence to suggest her brother had been financially abused toward the end of his life by two pseudo-caregivers. The abusers had taken advantage of the decedent’s compromised mental state to steal valuables from his home and siphon money from his financial accounts using power of attorney documents. Ultimately, the Keystone tram was able to help the estate secure the return of more than $2 million in stolen money and property from the decedent’s abusers, as well as obtain a judgment for an additional $1 million. Read full case study.
Keystone’s client had been disinherited from his father and late mother’s trust through a series of trust amendments. This fact had come to light after the client noticed that the trust’s most valuable property had been encumbered by unnecessary loans. Once Keystone got involved in the matter, a clearer picture formed. While the client’s father was the official trustee of the trust, it was actually the client’s brother who was controlling the trust’s assets, i.e., he was acting as the de facto trustee. Not only had the brother unduly influenced the father to disinherit the client, but he was also using trust assets to fund his family’s lavish lifestyle. Ultimately, after demonstrating how the brother, as de facto trustee, harmed the trust, Keystone was able to have him removed and replaced with a private professional fiduciary. Additionally, the firm was able to have the amendments disinheriting its client invalidated, as well as secure for the client a settlement in which he became the free-and-clear owner of the trust’s most valuable real property. Read full case study.
Keystone’s clients had been disinherited from their grandmother’s trust after her estranged son levied false allegations of elder abuse against them and used those allegations to secure a temporary conservatorship over his mother. Three days before she died, the son took her to his own estate planning attorney to execute a new trust that disinherited her grandchildren and named him as the trust’s sole beneficiary. Keystone’s probate attorneys successfully argued that not only had the son’s elder abuse allegations been falsified, but that the decedent lacked the capacity to execute a new trust when she did, Ultimately, Keystone secured for its clients a favorable settlement in which they received the majority of the decedent’s assets. Read full case study.
Keystone’s client was the decedent’s closest living heir, which is why it seemed odd to him that the sole beneficiary of the decedent’s estate plan was the decedent’s caregiver and former financial adviser. He suspected that the caregiver had engaged in misconduct to make the decedent favor her in his estate plan. Upon investigating, Keystone learned that the caregiver had the decedent allegedly sign multiple estate planning documents when he ostensibly lacked the mental competence to do so. Ultimately, Keystone reached a favorable settlement for its client that allowed the client to recover a significant share of the decedent’s assets. (Read full case study.)
At Keystone, because our attorneys exclusively focus on probate law, they have a knowledge of the field that is unsurpassed and can consistently provide you with superior representation in your fiduciary misconduct cases. Members of our team have earned many accomplishments and accolades, including:
We specialize in fiduciary misconduct matters across California, commonly serving:
Fiduciary misconduct can be notoriously difficult to detect, especially if the fiduciary in question is not upholding their responsibility to communicate with you and/or provide you with accountings. In fact, a fiduciary’s failure to share information with interested parties can in itself be a red flag that misconduct might be taking place.
Signs of fiduciary misconduct can include:
While the above list is not exhaustive, it can give you an idea of the types of red flags that warrant the involvement of fiduciary misconduct lawyer.
First, it is important to keep in mind that fiduciaries are generally only required to keep you reasonably informed about their actions. Of course, what the fiduciary finds reasonable may not be what you find reasonable, which is why conflicts can arise, At the end of the day, your fiduciary should provide you with enough information for you to enforce your rights.
It is a good idea to request information from your fiduciary in writing; this way, if you need to take the matter the court, you will have evidence to back up your misconduct claim. If, after multiple written requests, your fiduciary is still failing to communicate, it may be necessary to involve a lawyer. Sometimes, pressure from a lawyer may be all that is required to compel the fiduciary to comply with your requests, Other times, it may be necessary to sue the fiduciary for the information you want.
Not necessarily. When the fiduciary whom you’ve entrusted with managing your hard-earned money causes financial losses, it can be distressing; however, their actions would only constitute misconduct if the fiduciary acted in bad faith or against your best interests.
Let’s suppose that you asked your fiduciary to invest your money in low-risk stocks, but then the stock market suddenly crashes, destabilizing stocks that have historically been stable. Would that be your fiduciary’s fault? Your fiduciary heeded your preferences, but circumstances out of their control caused your stock portfolio to plummet. In this instance, fiduciary misconduct likely did not occur.
Now, if the fiduciary acted negligently or against your best interests, which resulted in financial losses, then there may be reason to bring a fiduciary misconduct claim.
A fiduciary bond is akin to insurance for interested parties (e.g., beneficiaries, heirs, creditors, conservatees, wards). In the event the fiduciary breaches their duties intentionally or unintentionally, causing harm to the assets of the person or persons they represent, a fiduciary bond can help limit the damage caused by the fiduciary.
In a probate action, whether a fiduciary needs a bond, as well as the amount of the bond, is generally determined by the court.
If your fiduciary has a lawyer, they likely hired that lawyer to protect their interests, not yours. In other words, the fiduciary retained a lawyer to guide them as they perform their duties to ensure no errors are made.
When it comes to protecting your interests, that is your fiduciary’s job, so in an ideal world, you would not need a lawyer. That being said, many fiduciaries flout their duty of loyalty; therefore, it could be a good idea to have a lawyer on your team to not only monitor the fiduciary’s actions but also to protect your best interests in the event the fiduciary is going against them.