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Who Has a Fiduciary Duty Under California Law?


Fiduciary relationships arise in several situations, including attorney-client relationships and the relationship between a trustee and a trust/beneficiaries. Generally speaking, fiduciary relationships involve confidentiality, trust, integrity, and a situation where a beneficiary is relying on the expertise, special skills, and/or integrity of someone else.

However, a fiduciary duty arises only in the context of a voluntary, knowing undertaking or agreement. A fiduciary must voluntarily agree to enter into a relationship that, by law, imposes fiduciary duties on him or her, and/or to take on the duties of a fiduciary.

Fiduciary duties are imposed on some relationships by law. Examples of these relationships include:

  • attorney/client
  • corporate officers and directors/shareholders or entity stakeholders
  • trustee/beneficiary
  • real estate agent (or broker)/client
  • agent/principal
  • business partners (to one another)
  • majority or controlling shareholders/minority shareholders
  • spouses (to one another)

Note: this list is not exhaustive.  Other fiduciary relationships are recognized and enforceable by law, where the elements of or requirements for a fiduciary relationship are met.


No fiduciary duty exists unless there is a fiduciary relationship. Where no fiduciary relationship exists, no fiduciary duty arises, and no claim can be made for breach of fiduciary duty.

However, a person who knowingly helps a fiduciary breach his or her fiduciary duty may be guilty of a tort, and subject to legal liability. While the legal claim is not exactly the same as the claim that arises against the fiduciary, “aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty” is also a recognized tort in California.

If you believe you were injured because someone violated a legal duty owed to you, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your legal rights and potential claims. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay, because these claims–like others–are subject to a limitations period, and the claim must be brought before the deadline set by law.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your legal rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal rights or claims. Consult an experienced attorney promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, potential damages, and the various legal rights and options available to you.

You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses), as well as legal and court procedures, are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your individual rights and claims.

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