As seniors age and lose the ability to properly manage their financial affairs, it is likely that someone will need to step in to handle their finances.
A family member or close friend is often selected to assume this responsibility under a conservatorship. However, in some circumstances, the aging individual may not have any family or friends that they trust to assume the role. If there is no one fit to take on such important responsibilities, then the individual can hire a professional fiduciary to step in.
What does a professional fiduciary do?
A professional fiduciary is a licensed professional, sometimes a CPA or an attorney, who is hired to manage an individual’s personal and/or financial affairs when they die or if they become incapacitated. In California, professional fiduciaries must be licensed by the California Department of Consumer Affairs and earn 15 hours of continuing education credit in order to renew their license every year.
With such an important job to do, choosing a professional fiduciary is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Any professional fiduciary you may be considering must be properly vetted.
The Process of Hiring a Professional Fiduciary
Step 1 – Research
Start with an internet search for local professional fiduciaries. Make sure to conduct a little background research on each potential fiduciary. Use the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau’s License Verification tool to verify the fiduciary’s license is in good standing and that there have been no disciplinary actions taken against them.
Note: If your professional fiduciary is a certified public accountant or attorney, they are exempt from this licensing requirement.
Step 2 – Get References
Don’t be afraid to ask any potential fiduciaries for a list of references, including past clients, current clients, and professional partners. You can also do a quick search for client reviews online. Hearing from clients and other professionals can give you insight into the type of support the fiduciary provides and what you can expect from their services.
Step 3 – Interview
Glowing references do provide valuable insight, but you can’t just take their word for it. The fiduciary’s role is incredibly important, and it’s imperative that you trust this individual will manage your affairs legally, ethically, and according to your wishes. Interviewing potential fiduciaries is a step you simply cannot skip. According to the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, you should interview at least three licensed fiduciaries before selecting one. They even provide consumers with a list of questions to ask during these interviews.
What are the potential benefits of using a professional fiduciary?
Some people may be reluctant to the idea of hiring someone they don’t know to manage their personal and financial affairs, but using an unbiased professional has its benefits. Fiduciaries have a legal and ethical obligation to act in the best interest of the individual they are representing. Professional fiduciaries must follow a strict code of ethics, and breach of fiduciary duty is taken very seriously. Hiring a professional fiduciary can also help you avoid family conflicts.
For a family member or friend, acting as a conservator can be a complicated role, and if mistakes are made, it can have a major impact on your estate. Hiring an experienced and licensed professional fiduciary can ensure that every decision and action that is taken is objective and appropriate.
Selecting a professional fiduciary is a very important decision, and it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. Look for someone who is not only experienced and trustworthy but also truly cares about their clients.
At Marcia L. Campbell, CPA, we act as trusted professional fiduciaries and caring client advocates. We are dedicated to developing long-lasting relationships with our clients so that we can serve their wants and needs to the best of our ability. Contact us at 951-686-3608 to learn how we can help you and your family.