What can you do about the mismanagement of an estate?
Executors and administrators owe a duty to beneficiaries to ensure that an estate is properly administered in accordance with the terms of the Will (or the intestacy rules where there is no Will). But what happens when they fail to do so? What can you do about the mismanagement of an estate?
If an estate is mismanaged, then the executors or administrators will be liable for a ‘devastavit’. Devastavit (which literally means ‘he has laid waste’) is a legal principle which obliges executors and administrators who cause financial loss to “answer out of their own pockets” — to use the words of a judge in a famous Victorian case.
Similar duties are owed by executors and administrators to creditors of an estate, who are also entitled to rely on devastavit.
Devastavit claims can be made in a variety of scenarios where there has been mismanagement of an estate. This includes paying tax from the wrong assets, making a distribution to someone who is not a beneficiary, failing to collect in estate assets or pursue a meritorious legal claim, and utilising estate monies for the executor’s private benefit.
When taking legal action for devastavit a beneficiary (or creditor) can recover damages from the executor (or administrator). They can also seek an account of profits and avoid a transaction that the executor has entered into.
A devastavit claim may also be accompanied by an action to remove the executor from office.
So, if you have suffered financial loss as a result of the mismanagement of an estate then speak to our friendly team of Legal 500 recommended experts.