Estates have an individual tasked with distributing and managing the estate or trust. If a person dies with a Will, then the Will appoints an “executor” to administer that person’s estate. If a person dies without a will, then a spouse, child, family member or third party can apply to the probate court to be appointed the Administrator of that person’s estate.
Regardless of whether a person is an Executor or Administrator, that person owes a fiduciary duty to the deceased person’s estate or trust beneficiaries to act in the best interests of the estate, to not act in a conflict of interest, and act with scrupulous good faith.
An Executor or an Administrator who does not meet this fiduciary duty can be subject to legal action by the estate’s beneficiaries or other interested parties such as creditors. The person appointed under a trust indenture or who otherwise possesses trust property to be administered on behalf of trust beneficiaries is called a Trustee. Trustees also owe a fiduciary duty to the trust beneficiaries of the trust that they are administering.
Examples of executor misconduct that can lead to challenging their appointment as executor of a will can include:
Mismanagement of estate assets: This can include using estate funds for personal gain, failing to properly invest assets, or misappropriating funds.
Failing to distribute assets: An executor may fail to distribute assets to the beneficiaries as required by the will or the law.
Failing to provide a proper accounting: The executor has a duty to keep accurate records and provide a detailed accounting of all estate transactions to the beneficiaries.
Conflict of interest: An executor may have a personal interest in the outcome of the estate that conflicts with their duties as executor.
Failing to manage estate debts: An executor has a duty to pay estate debts and liabilities, but they may fail to do so, which can result in a challenge to their appointment.
Breaching fiduciary duty: An executor has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries, and may breach this duty by engaging in self-dealing or other unethical behavior.
In British Columbia, the statute of limitations for suing an executor is two years from the date of the grant of probate or letters of administration. This means that if you wish to bring a claim against an executor, you must do so within two years of the grant of probate or letters of administration.
However, it is important to note that there may be exceptions to this general rule, such as if the executor concealed information or committed fraud, in which case the limitation period may be extended.
We highly recommend a free consultation with one of our attorneys as soon as possible if you are considering suing an executor, as the specific time limits and requirements for bringing a claim can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
An executor may take certain steps which are in breach of his or her fiduciary duty to the estate. Examples where an executor may be challenged include: misusing estate or trust funds in a way that causes damage to the estate or trust property, co-mingling estate funds with personal funds, providing inadequate accountings to the beneficiaries, using estate or trust funds for personal purposes, favouring one beneficiary over another beneficiary (including favouring him/ herself over other beneficiaries), or failing to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.
An executor or trustee who has acted contrary to the law may be sued for breach of fiduciary duty. A conversation with a lawyer can help you determine whether the actions taken by the executor or trustee violate his duty and whether you’re in a good position to challenge the executor. And whether commencing legal action is in your best interest. Our team at Onyx Law Group is committed to fully understanding our clients’ concerns and is dedicated to offering legal solutions to meet their personal and practical objectives. At Onyx Law, we approach our estate litigation practice knowing that every case is unique and every client deserves understanding and compassion.
We believe it’s important to know your legal rights and obligations before making any decisions. That’s why we offer 30 minute free consultations to give you the opportunity to discuss your matter with a passionate and knowledgeable lawyer who can advise you on the best steps forward.
Onyx Law Group represents clients in family law, estate and trust litigation, estate planning and probate matters. Consult with our experienced team at
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be considered legal, financial, tax, medical, or any other professional advice.