Being asked to serve as the administrator of a loved one’s estate is both an honor and an obligation imposed upon a California resident. Although a well-crafted estate plan that takes into consideration methods of avoiding probate and removing ambiguity from the plans testamentary documents is not necessarily hard to manage, knowing how to provide adequate oversight of the estate’s distribution can be nerve-wracking. This post will discuss one of the most important aspects of serving as an estate administrator: exercising a fiduciary duty toward the estate.
Many legal relationships involve a duty between the parties. For example, when a doctor takes on a patient that medical professional has a duty of care to treat their patient at the standard expected of a doctor with their training and practicing in their geographic area. When a person is appointed the administrator of another person’s estate and serve as the executor of their will then they take on the important duty of a fiduciary.
A fiduciary is one who acts honestly and diligently. It does not mean that they are an expert in estate administration, but rather that they act in good faith with regard to their responsibilities. A fiduciary duty is one that requires the holder of the duty to employ these traits as they work toward resolving another person’s estate.
It is often during the review of a decedent’s will that an executor must exercise their fiduciary duty to make sure that the decedent’s testamentary wishes are fulfilled. Although they must follow the terms of the will, it is up to them to make sure the beneficiaries noted in the decedent’s estate plan receive what they are due and that the assets of the decedent’s estate are appropriately managed.
The fiduciary duty of an estate administrator is important, and there can be consequences if this duty is not upheld. Therefore, those who are appointed as an estate administrator may want to seek guidance, to better understand how to proceed.