Equitable defenses to claims of breach of the fiduciary duty
Updated: Sep 27
Serving as a trustee or an estate administrator can be enormously rewarding, but it can also be incredibly stressful. After all, you’re suddenly responsible for investing certain estate assets and managing them in a way that supports the best interests of the estate and its named beneficiaries. This means that you have to put those heirs and beneficiaries first. If they don’t think that you’re doing that, then you may be accused of breaching your fiduciary duty.
Equitable defenses to breach of the fiduciary duty
When boiled down to its essence, the legal system is about fairness. Therefore, you may be able to defend yourself against allegations of breach of the fiduciary duty by relying on equitable defenses, which are those defenses that are fair in nature. Here are some of them:
Laches: Laches simply means that the party brining the claim has waited too long to do so. It would be unfair for you to act in a certain way thinking that a beneficiary was in agreement with that type of action, only for them to come back long after the fact to raise a legal claim.
Ratification: Ratification occurs when a beneficiary intentionally approves of an action with full knowledge of the facts at hand. So, with this defense, you want to carefully consider how the beneficiary reacted to you acting in a certain way.
Waiver: This is simply the voluntary relinquishment of a right. You have to show that the act of waiving was intentional in order to succeed on this defense.
Estoppel: Estoppel bars a beneficiary from taking a legal position against you after he or she has induced you to act in a certain way. Here, it might be helpful to show misrepresentation of facts.
Don’t leave your legal representation to chance
There’s a lot at stake when you’re accused of breaching the fiduciary duty. That’s why it’s imperative that you understand the law, how it applies to your case, and how to use it to your advantage. Fortunately, you don’t have to face these matters on your own. Instead, you can work closely with a skilled legal professional that can help you craft the compelling legal arguments that you need on your side.