Making Smart Decisions with Thoughtful Planning By Gina M. Greenwood-Meinert Published in the Fiduciary Bureau E-Newsletter, The Guardian, Spring 2016
The responsibility and time commitment of taking care of yourself and everything you have worked so hard for can be overwhelming and emotional. Select someone who is licensed and professionally trained to understand Trust documents, the Probate Code and common professional safeguards. Family conflicts and biases can cloud judgments and interfere with the implementation of your instructions. Choosing a professional fiduciary frees family of tremendous added stress and hardship, as well as risk.
Contact a reliable Estate Planning Attorney to document your decisions and explain the service options available to assist you in implementing your wishes.
Service Options: Corporate Bank or Trust Company Licensed Professional Fiduciary Attorney or CPA Family Member or Friend
Professional fiduciaries are regulated by the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau. A Licensed Professional Fiduciary has to meet the educational training required by the State’s Fiduciary Bureau and successfully complete an exam based on that training. A private professional fiduciary will provide the greatest level of service at the lowest cost.
Keep in mind, fiduciary licensing does not apply to a licensed attorney in California or to a person licensed in California as a CPA.
Corporate fiduciaries may have internal institutional limitations regarding investing, managing, and spending the assets of an estate, trust, or guardianship. Be certain a corporate fiduciary will fulfill your expectations in order to avoid conflicts with beneficiaries who will be forced to go to court to resolve disputes with the institution. In most cases, corporate fiduciaries cost more than an individual fiduciary.
Since corporate fiduciaries use committees to make decisions, you may experience long delays in actions to be taken on behalf of an estate, trust, or guardianship, as well as slower responses to questions or concerns and time sensitive decisions. As part of a corporation, corporate fiduciaries have a bureaucracy of various departments and offices in different locations. Finding the right person in order to get the help corporate fiduciaries may have internal institutional limitations regarding investing, managing, and spending the assets of an estate you need when you need it can be frustrating.
Develop a plan with your attorney so that you have the support you need in place to enforce your decisions when you need it most. Remember, you took great care with your estate planning, so let your attorney help evaluate the capability of your successor trustee to meet your expectations and implement your wishes with the same level of care. Will your successor trustee remain objective and work successfully with all beneficiaries and family members? You and your family deserve to be treated with dignity and respect not like just an account number.
Some considerations in selecting a Fiduciary include:
What type of services do you need? Are they insured for errors and omissions? What are their credentials? What are their office and telephone hours? If there is an emergency after hours, who can I reach? What are their internal controls like? How is your confidential information protected? What happens to your estate if something happens to them? What is their succession plan? Do they have a disaster recovery plan for your data? What fees do they charge and when? If they use other professionals (certified public accountant, attorney, caregiver etc.), what are their fees? Do they work alone or have staff? If they have staff, what types of services do they delegate to them? What is the fee for services provided by their staff? How often will they provide you with an accounting? Will they provide you with references of past of current clients or other professionals they have worked with who you can contact? Do you have a long-time financial advisor you wish to continue working with? What do you want to do with your Real Estate? Who is representing you and your interests? Do you need a Successor Trustee? Power of Attorney-Finance? Power of Attorney-Health Care?
Some common situations where fiduciaries serve: 1. Family has little knowledge of finance or of business or real estate, 2. Family are busy with work and children are not responsible, or do not work well together, and 3. Elderly clients do not want to use an impersonal and costly financial institution.
Serving as the successor Trustee in any circumstances is a huge responsibility and time consuming burden, but with the help of your estate planning attorney you should be able to choose the right Fiduciary to represent you.