Minnesota Probate Laws | The Meaning of a “fiduciary”

MN Probate LawyersMany of my clients have questions about the meaning of the word  “fiduciary” as it applies to probate law.

The definition and discussion often revolves around Minnesota probate and or Minnesota trust law. For this article I will discuss the definition as it applies to personal representatives and Minnesota probate (although the general rules apply in all cases).

Minnesota Probate Law

Minnesota statute 524.3-703 provides the legal definition of a fiduciary in terms of Minnesota probably law. Below are the pertinent portions of the statute:

(a) A personal representative is a fiduciary who shall observe the standards of care in dealing with the estate assets that would be observed by a prudent person dealing with the property of another, and if the personal representative has special skills or is named personal representative on a basis of representation of special skills or expertise, the personal representative is under a duty to use those skills. A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of any probated and effective will and applicable law, and as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate. The personal representative shall use the authority conferred by applicable law, the terms of the will, if any, and any order in proceedings to which the personal representative is party for the best interests of successors to the estate.

. . .

As you can see, the definition of a fiduciary and what the fiduciary duties are in a probate are clear and well defined.  Basically, a fiduciary is a legal definition of a person was been appointed to care for the property and legal rights of another. This is a very serious position which should not be taken lightly.

Violation of fiduciary duties

If the personal representative of the probate estate is not following Minnesota law, that person can be held personally liable for any mistakes, fraud, or misrepresentations that may have been committed. The people holding the personal representative accountable are often the heirs, beneficiaries, and or creditors of the estate. Failing to comply with the law as it defines a fiduciary is a sure way to be sued.  Some common examples of failures of a personal representative include:

  • failing to properly notify creditors of estate debts
  • failure to properly account for estate assets,
  • failure to file an accurate inventory and/or final accounting
  • failure to notify heirs of their rights
  • not paying taxes of the deceased person in a timely fashion

In my estimation, as an attorney was been practicing probate law for a number of years, the personal representative duties are often rather obvious, unfortunately, some individuals are unable to meet the standard of caring for others. This is unfortunate.

Minnesota probate attorneys lawyers

If you find yourself in a situation we have questions about your fiduciary duties as a new personal representative, or if your questions about a person representative who is not doing his or her job, contact the probate lawyer at Flanders Law Firm LLC, 612-424-0398.

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