Certain relationships create a legal obligation, or fiduciary duty, that requires one party to act solely in the best interests of the other without regard to their own interests. A fiduciary duty can exist between a trustee and the beneficiaries of the trust, a lawyer and their client and an investment advisor and their investors, among others. It can even exist between company officers and their corporations and partners and their partnerships.
Knowing how to spot the warning signs of a breach of that fiduciary duty can be important, since you need to know when to take action or seek help with your situation.
The most common signs that someone has breached their professional fiduciary duty include:
- An unwillingness to show you records of their transactions: If you’ve been asking to see the books, receipts or records and you’re not getting them, it’s time to be suspicious.
- Incomplete records: If you finally get a peek at the books and they’re out-of-date, haphazardly filled in or otherwise missing information, that’s a problem.
- Assets seem to be commingled: Personal assets should always be kept distinct from the assets that are being held in trust or the assets that belong to a business.
- Some kind of conflict of interest: Someone whose loyalties are divided — for any reason — can’t easily keep their fiduciary duty straight.
- Some money or assets have gone missing: If funds or property has seemingly disappeared, you have every reason to ask questions.
If you suspect that you’re a victim of someone’s breach of their fiduciary duty, it’s probably time to discuss your situation with an attorney who is experienced in civil litigation.