When Is Retaining a Professional Fiduciary a Good Idea?

When we think of estate planning, we often view it as a series of decisions that we make about personal finances, burial arrangements, and other affairs to be managed after our death. However, while after death decisions are certainly important, another important part of estate planning involves preparing for the management of our financial and personal affairs if we become ill or otherwise unable to make certain decisions.

Family members are a common choice for filling these important roles. Examples are making healthcare decisions or managing financial matters. But in some situations, a professional fiduciary might be the better choice. You might consider a professional fiduciary if:

You don’t know anyone who is right for the job. Perhaps you don’t have adult children, they live far away, you’re uncertain of their decision-making abilities, or there is some other reason they are not up for the task of managing your financial and medical affairs. In the absence of other family members or friends who can fill this role, a professional fiduciary might be a wise choice.

You want to avoid conflict within the family. Perhaps you’re fortunate to have many family members who would make an excellent choice in time of need. But you don’t want to trigger hard feelings by choosing only one, or you’re worried about conflicts between them. A professional fiduciary won’t be affected by the emotional issues that often accompany these serious situations.

You hope to avoid conflicts of interest. Decision making can be impacted by strong emotions. A professional fiduciary won’t be subject to the same pitfalls; he or she can calmly and rationally make the decisions that you have detailed beforehand.

If you do decide to designate a professional fiduciary:

  • Ask for their license number, status, and expiration date
  • Double-check this information with the California Department of Consumer Affairs Professional Fiduciaries Bureau
  • Inquire about the value of client assets managed by the fiduciary, past bankruptcy information, and case removal information
  • Work closely with your estate planning attorney to draw up the proper legal documents

For more information on professional fiduciaries, their responsibilities, and your rights, call our estate planning attorney to schedule a consultation. We can help you weigh your options and make recommendations to assist you with your specific goals and objectives.

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