Serving as an estate administrator or a trustee is oftentimes more complicated than people think. Paying yourself out of the estate, determining how and when assets should be distributed, and investing assets can be difficult to navigate, and named beneficiaries might not always agree with your decisions. While most of these disagreements can be resolved informally, there may come a time when you’re accused of breaching your fiduciary duty. If you’re in that position now as you manage estate administration, then you need to know how to aggressively defend yourself lest you face a significant judgment against you.
Was the claim unreasonably delayed?
There are a lot of different ways to defend against these kinds of allegations. In many instances, the administrator or trustee is able to successfully raise a laches defense, which merely argues that the beneficiary waited far too long to bring a claim forward. To succeed on this defense you have to show that the other side was unreasonable in delaying its claim and that you’re disadvantaged by that delay. So, when looking at this defense consider the circumstances surrounding the allegations and when the claim could have first been brought to light.
Did the beneficiary agree with the action?
Ratification is another defense option that might be available to you. Here, the beneficiary approves of the decisions that you’ve made base on full knowledge of your actions and with the intent of approving those actions. With this defense, then, you’ll want to look at the behavior and communications of the trustee to see if they were in agreement with certain actions that you took or if they acquiesced to those actions.
Other equitable defense may be at your fingertips
Estoppel, waiver, and accord and satisfaction may all be defense options that are available to you if you’ve performed your fiduciary duties in an honest and fair fashion. Be prepared, though, for the beneficiary in question to argue that you are precluded from raising these defenses because you acted in bad faith or an otherwise unconscionable manner. If you’d like to learn more about how to build these defenses and prepare to counter the beneficiary who has made allegations against you, then it might be time to discuss the specifics of your case with an attorney who fully understands the ins and outs of this area of the law.