No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Especially When Acceptance Means a Target on One’s Back: Defending Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims in the Context of Trust and Estate Administration By Sandra D. Glazier, Esq., Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin, P.C.
Family members or trusted family consultants are often honored when they learn they’ve been nominated to act as a trustee. They take the appointment seriously, but may not have a background in trust administration. Perhaps they perused or read the pertinent instrument in its entirety when they accepted the appointment. They might interpret oft included boilerplate language as instilling them with broad (if not unlimited) powers. The enumeration of powers might lead non-professional fiduciaries to the mistaken belief that they can handle the assets as they do their own — or in the same fashion that the settlor did.
Since they view themselves as ‘‘reasonable’’ they may believe that they need only to xercise their discretion as they deem appropriate. They may even believe they know what the settlor wanted and adapt their decision making accordingly. For purposes of these materials, we will generally assume that the trustee acted in good faith. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for nonprofessional trustees to be unaware of statutory and common law that may supersede, supplement or otherwise override provisions contained within the trust instrument.
Further complicating this area may be that the settlor was the glue that held the family together. When the settlor is no longer able to manage his own affairs, no longer has capacity, has otherwise become vulnerable or has died, familial rivalries may find a new forum in which to play out. Litigation in this arena often is more than just about the money. It’s often emotionally charged and, even if carefully managed, such litigation can result in irreparable family rifts…Click here for full article.