Court Approval of Estate Administrators Accounting Bars

Arizona long ago established that the court's approval of an estate administrator's accounting bars an attempt to reopen consideration of items presented in the accounting. In re Sullivan's Estate, 51 Ariz. 483, 494, 78 P.2d 132, 136-37 (1938). In other words, the judicial settlement of interim accountings "as to persons who receive notice and are subject to the court's jurisdiction bars subsequent litigation seeking to raise defaults or defects with respect to the matters shown or disclosed." Estrada v. Arizona Bank, 152 Ariz. 386, 389, 732 P.2d 1124, 1127 (App. 1987). Despite the finality of the approval of an accounting, however, the accounting may be reconsidered if the administrator has engaged in fraudulent concealment or misrepresentation in presenting the accounting or in obtaining the approval of the court. In re Estate of Terman, 135 Ariz. 453, 455, 661 P.2d 1154, 1156 (App. 1983), citing RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TRUSTS 220, cmt. a (1959). Thus, If it appears that the executors or administrators have been guilty of extrinsic fraud in securing the order approving the account, such order may be attacked directly and set aside at any time, and when the order is set aside, the various items thereof may be used in an attempt to remove the executors or administrators. Sullivan, 51 Ariz. at 494-95, 78 P.2d at 137. Generally, fraud is considered extrinsic if "it deprives an unsuccessful party of the opportunity to present his case in court." Ivancovich v. Meier, 122 Ariz. 346, 348-49, 595 P.2d 24, 26-27 (1979). However, particularly when a fiduciary relationship is involved, extrinsic fraud is not confined solely to cases of that nature. Id. In a case involving a fiduciary relationship, such as administrator and heir or executor and legatee, the fiduciary has a duty to deal fairly, not fraudulently, and to disclose the true facts, not deceive. In re Estate of Olivas, 132 Ariz. 61, 63, 643 P.2d 1031, 1033 (App. 1982). A breach of this duty may constitute extrinsic fraud. Id. Moreover, if a fiduciary who speaks falsely or refuses to reveal the truth also personally profits by his fraudulent conduct, that conduct will justify intervention by the court even in a collateral proceeding. Sullivan, 51 Ariz. at 495, 78 P.2d at 137.