Q: What does the fiduciary do?
A: Fiduciary, by definition, means “position of trust”. A fiduciary is your partner, advocate, personal manager, and guardian, as needed. The fiduciary assists the client, or steps into the shoes of the client as directed, in making decisions for the client’s financial and/or personal well-being, while maintaining a professional, independent, and confidential relationship.
Q: How do fiduciaries work?
A: Fiduciaries follow the terms of the estate planning document, be it a trust, will, power of attorney for finance, or advance health care directive. Second to the estate planning document, the fiduciary follows the California Probate Code and the client’s known wishes. They work with you, family members, courts, attorneys, and other professionals to ensure your needs and wishes are fulfilled. They are governed by the guidelines of the California Probate Code and Professional Fiduciary Code of Ethics.
Q: Why shouldn’t a family member act as fiduciary?
A: A family member may be an appropriate fiduciary, but you may need a professional fiduciary if you aren’t able to identify a family member or close friend willing and competent to serve in a fiduciary role. Many of our clients do not have children, and don’t wish to burden their friends with the complex duties of serving as a fiduciary. Some clients have “too many” interested family members and look to a professional fiduciary to serve as an independent party to administer their affairs.
Q: How do I know I can trust a fiduciary?
A: Professional fiduciaries are licensed by the state of California by the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, under the Department of Consumer Affairs. Professional fiduciaries must maintain their licenses by adhering to state and professional conduct standards and meet continuing education requirements annually.
Q: How much do fiduciary services cost?
A: Every client has different needs. After an initial consultation, we can better answer this question. Like most attorneys and accountants, we bill by the hour, on 1/10th hour increments, and have a set schedule of fees for each fiduciary role we provide.
Q: Is there a minimum net asset value for the cases that you will consider accepting?
A: In general, yes. A professional fiduciary is not for everyone, and incurring professional fiduciary fees may not be logical or prudent in certain situations. Our general case minimums by role are as follows:
- Trustee for Living Trusts, Agent for Finance/Health Care, or Executor: Consumer net assets of $750,000 or greater per person, or $1,000,000 per couple (including retirement accounts); or annual income of $100,000 per person, or $150,000 per couple.
- Trustee for Special Needs or Irrevocable Trusts (including sub-trusts): Trust net assets of $300,000 or greater.