Case underscores importance of understanding an executor’s fiduciary duty
In a highly publicized probate litigation case, Strafford County Probate Court Judge, Gary Cassavechia has decreed that, in failure to act responsibly as estate executor, a Laconia priest must pay roughly $1.6 million, including interest, for mishandling the estate of another revered priest, Monsignor Normal P. Bolduc, which caused the loss of millions for Monsignor Bolduc’s family.
Bolduc, 48, was chancellor of the Manchester Diocese and one of the highest ranking Roman Catholic Church officials in New Hampshire when he died on Sept. 30, 2000. He was killed while riding his motorcycle to a Weirs Beach church to celebrate Mass.
McLane attorney, David Wolowitz, who is recognized nationally for his work representing institutions and families in highly politically and emotionally charged environments such as those found in churches and boarding school communities, worked with McLane’s esteemed trusts and estates practitioners to represent the Monsignor’s parents in the matter.
At issue was the failure of the Monsignor’s named executor and his advising law firm to immediately liquidate stocks following the death of the Monsignor, who had substantial holdings. A large portion of the highly volatile, high-tech stocks had been purchased on margin, and lost considerable value each day of inaction on the part of the executor, as the stock market tumbled in the fall of 2000.
In penalizing the respondent, the judge followed the reasoning in a Supreme Court case that said “surcharge is the penalty for failure to exercise common skill and common caution in the performance of the fiduciary’s duty and is imposed to compensate beneficiaries for loss caused by the fiduciary’s want of due care.”
David Wolowitz is a director for the McLane Law Firm who practices in employment law, education law and all aspects of probate litigation. David can be reached at (603) 334-6923 or by e-mail at [email protected]. The McLane Law Firm is the largest full-service law firm in the state of New Hampshire, with offices in Concord, Manchester and Portsmouth.
This case was reported by the Manchester Union Leader on March 18, 2005. Read the full text of the story.