Why should you hire a fiduciary? As a senior citizen, when considering your long-term future, you’re likely faced with two different scenarios. One possibility is that you lack immediate family who can be appointed as your power of attorney or health care surrogate. Or you have plenty of family support, but ironically face a similar predicament. You might have loved ones who could take over if needed, but they may live far away, lack the appropriate skills, or bring a potential for conflict with siblings or other relatives. Family may be willing but unable or ill-prepared to fill this important role.
In either case, what is a person to do in order to take charge of their legal, financial, and medical future? A professional fiduciary may be the solution.
What Is a Fiduciary?
A fiduciary is a person who is named in a private agreement or by a court to assume responsibility for a position of trust. Fiduciaries handle affairs on someone else’s behalf while they are still alive and/or after they have passed away. For example, a representative payee for a loved one’s Social Security benefits and an executor for a decedent’s estate both serve in a fiduciary role.
Most people would prefer to choose the person who will be entrusted with managing their affairs rather than an appointment by the state; this is why trusts and power of attorney documents for finances and healthcare exist. They allow individuals to appoint someone they know and trust (an agent) to make decisions on their behalf so that a stranger does not assume this very personal responsibility. But, as mentioned above, in cases where a senior does not have a person to appoint, a professional may be the best bet. In the past, those who served as professional fiduciaries tended to be trust company officers, certified public accountants, or attorneys. Starting in 2008, the State of California authorized a new category of people to act in a fiduciary role through the Department of Consumer Affairs by way of a licensing process. In selecting a professional fiduciary, be certain the person or organization has appropriate certifications and experience in this area of expertise.
This individual must act in the best interest of the person they are representing. Breach of fiduciary duties is taken very seriously. While you may be unsure about appointing someone you do not know, professionals in this line of work must follow a strict code of ethics and are typically regulated by individual states.
How Are Professional Fiduciaries Appointed?
Anyone who would like to appoint an impartial individual to manage their healthcare and/or finances can name a fiduciary in their power of attorney documents. In instances where the person failed to name any agent to act on their behalf prior to becoming incapacitated, or in cases where an already appointed agent is misusing or abusing their position, guardianship (for those under 18 years of age) or proceedings can ensue. This lengthy and expensive process can result in a court-appointed professional fiduciary who will handle the person’s affairs.
The best way to ensure that your affairs will be handled the way you prefer is to work with an attorney to draft appropriate documents and keep them up to date.
These reasons and others make it is wise to consider hiring a professional fiduciary. Storz Fiduciary Services offers a free initial consultation, where we can discuss your personal concerns and go over how we can help you!