Brief Fact Summary. Appellant Executor Bertram Zweiborn (Appellant), son-in-law of Testator Pauline Kinzler (Testator), appeals a lower court order which was the result of a proceeding initiated by Respondent Beneficiary Daughters (Respondents) that he breached his fiduciary duties.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Fiduciary duties are owed from an estate executor to its beneficiaries and must be discharged in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner that does not involve self-dealing.
Issue. Are fiduciary duties owed from an estate executor to its beneficiaries and must these duties be discharged in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner that does not involve self-dealing?
Held. Yes. Fiduciary duties are owed from an estate executor to its beneficiaries and must be discharged in an unbiased and unprejudiced manner that does not involve self-dealing. Appellant violated this fiduciary duty because of the sale of Testator’s house to a cotrustee, he refused to pay income to one of the respondents, and he paid himself excess fees in advance without permission. A person standing in the relation of a fiduciary capacity, cannot deal with or purchase the property, in reference to which he holds that relation. An executor must at all times discharge his fiduciary duties so that all legatees are treated in like manner and without prejudice or discrimination. It is ultimately the court’s responsibility to decide what constitutes reasonable compensation. In determining what constitutes just and reasonable compensation for an attorney’s services, the court should consider the time spent, the difficulties involved in the matters in which the services were rendered,
the nature of the services, the amount involved, the professional standing of the counsel, and the results obtained. The court may also consider whether the attorney was also the executor entitled to commissions. As to the legal fees owed, it is the rule that where legal services have been rendered for the benefit of the estate as a whole, resulting in the enlargement of all the shares of all the estate beneficiaries, reasonable compensation should be granted from the funds of the estate. Respondents’ attorney here clearly enlarged the shares of the estate. Therefore, we determine that Respondent’s contentions are meritless.
Discussion. The fiduciary duty is at all time owed from the executor of an estate to its beneficiaries. This case serves as an excellent example of those duties owed.