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A devastavit is a mismanagement and waste by an executor, administrator, or other trustee of the estate and effects trusted to him as such, by which a loss occurs.
It takes place by direct abuse, by mal-administration, and by neglect.
By Direct Abuse. This takes place when the executor, administrator, or trustee, sells, embezzles, or converts to his own use, the goods entrusted to him releases a claim due to the estate or surrenders a lease below its value. These instances sufficiently show that any wilful waste of the property will be considered as a direct devastavit.
By Mal-Administration. Devastavit by mal-administration most frequently occurs by the payment of claims which were not due nor owing; or by paying others out of the order in which they ought to be paid; or by the payment of legacies before all the debts have been satisfied.
By Neglect. Negligence on the part of an executor, administrator, or trustee, may equally tend to the waste of the estate, as the direct destruction or mal-administration of the assets, and render him guilty of a devastavit. The neglect to sell the goods at a fair price, within a reasonable time or, if they are perishable goods, before they are wasted, will be a devastavit. And a neglect to collect a doubtful debt, which by proper exertion might have been collected, will be so considered.
The law requires good faith and due diligence from trustees, the want of which is punished by making them responsible for the losses which may be sustained by the property entrusted to them. Therefore, when a party has been guilty of a devastavit, he is required to make up the loss out of his own estate.