In 2010, American Airlines executive Max Hopper died without a Will, but with an estate valued at more than $19 million. After his death, JP Morgan Chase & Co. was hired as the estate administrator, to manage and oversee distributions to Mr. Hopper’s family. However, the family claimed the bank mismanaged the estate, and took more than five years to release interests in some of Mr. Hopper’s assets. In late September, a Dallas jury agreed, ordering the bank to pay punitive damages to Mr. Hopper’s widow and family of between $4 billion and $8 billion.
Alleged Breach of Fiduciary Duty
An estate executor, administrator or trustee, whether an individual or a professional fiduciary like JP Morgan, owes a fiduciary duty to the estate and its beneficiaries. In this case, the jury found that the bank did more than just breach its fiduciary duty; court papers show the bank also committed fraud and didn’t adhere to the terms of its fee agreement.
For its part, the bank maintains it acted professionally and in good faith, and is confident that the jury’s decision will be overturned on appeal.
A Little Planning Can Go a Long Way
Regardless of what ultimately happens with this case and its verdict, one thing is certain: engaging in your own estate planning, whether that’s creating a Will or a Trust, is the best way to ensure that your wishes will be honored when you die or if you are incapacitated. You also have control over who is in charge of administering your estate, which can limit the need for court action.
No matter what your estate planning requirements may be, we are here for you. We will carefully listen to you to create an estate plan that meets your wishes and needs. We are dedicated to protecting your wealth and ensuring that your assets go to your intended beneficiaries. We specialize in revocable living trusts, pour-over wills, powers of attorney, trust administration and a range of other services. Contact us today to get started!