There comes a point in a person's life when they are faced with caring for a loved one and his/her estate or dealing with an estate after a parent or relative dies. Even when it’s expected, making medical decisions for someone and/or handling an estate can be a scary and painful experience. It can leave a family member or close family friend with a tremendous amount of work. These responsibilities can also be complicated by a family dispute or when family members live far away. This is where a professional fiduciary can be a valuable asset by stepping in to take care of a person’s or estate’s affairs and provide support to a family. If you have not worked with a fiduciary before, you may be unfamiliar with what we do, how we are appointed and how our fees work. Below are some common questions.
What is a professional fiduciary?
A fiduciary is a non-family member, who assumes responsibility for a position of trust over a person and/or a person's estate. The title "professional fiduciary" is used to refer to someone who is acting as a conservator for the elderly or a disabled person, guardian, executor of a will, trustee, and an agent for a power of attorney. Often times we are called in to assist when there is no family available or able to take on the necessary responsibilities of managing a person, estate or to make important health care-related decisions.
Who can serve as a professional fiduciary?
There are major differences in hiring a professional fiduciary vs. asking a friend, neighbor or relative to assume one of these roles. Because we may be hired to make medical decisions on your behalf and/or manage your estate, there are many requirements we must meet prior to assisting you, which a friend or neighbor would not be asked to do, such as
Become licensed by the state of California, as regulated by state and federal laws;
Follow the Professional Fiduciary's Code of Ethics and Stardards of Practice;
Comply with the court's requirements, local rules, and state and federal statutes.
There are also several requirements in order to obtain a license, such as:
Have no criminal history
Undergo fingerprinting and a background check
Meet specific educational/experience guidelines of the Department of Human Services
Pass both CA specific and national exams
Obtain bonding, which acts as an insurance policy that protects the assets in the event of fraud or mismanagement.
Who hires the fiduciary?
Professional fiduciaries can serve by court appointment or can be hired by a private agreement, such as being named as executor of a will or trustee of a living trust.
How much does a professional fiduciary charge?
Rates vary depending on the role we serve. Whether we are court-appointed or hired privately, we must always base our fees on a "reasonable fee" structure. If acting as a personal representative in a probate matter, the fees would be based on statutory fees determine by the courts. As an executor of a will or trustee of an estate, fees are often discussed in the will or trust, but can also be pre-arranged prior to the appointment.
However we are appointed or named, and in whatever capacity we are appointed (guardians, conservators, personal representatives or agents under a durable power of attorney), we have duties and responsibilities we must abide by to ensure your loved ones and/or their estates are protected and handled with the utmost care and professionalism.