The term trustee ex maleficio refers to a person that has wrongfully acquired property and is regarded as holding it in trust. A trustee ex maleficio typically arises from an operation of law, and is oftentimes associated with a constructive trust.
Derived from the Spanish language, maleficio translates into the English word "curse." A trustee maleficio is a person that is acting in the role of a trustee since they are holding legal title to assets, or property, that was acquired through fraud or some other wrongdoing.
A trustee ex maleficio has been found guilty of a wrong through the operation of law. They are assigned to the duty of trustee, since they cannot personally profit from their wrongdoing and will eventually provide the assets to a beneficiary.
A trustee ex maleficio is oftentimes appointed as the result of a constructive trust, which is a court-imposed, implied trust that benefits a party that has been harmed in some way or wrongfully deprived of assets. Constructive trusts are not actual trusts; they are legal remedies used to correct the unjust enrichment of one party. There are a number of harms that could result in a constructive trust, including: payment of compensatory or punitive damages, cases of fraud, and the return of life insurance proceeds obtained through illegal means.