Selecting a Fiduciary for Your Estate Plan
A fiduciary is someone who will serve in a role of authority regarding you, your assets, or your minor children. Fiduciary roles can include:
- An Executor handles the probate and estate administration processes for any assets to be distributed under your Will.
- A Trustee handles the long-term administration of any Trusts created under your estate plan.
- A Guardian and/or Conservator. A Guardian would take custody of any minor children who survive you (if the children’s other parent is not still living.) A Conservator is appointed to take care of any assets that pass outright to a minor child.
- An Agent or Attorney-in-Fact under a Durable Power of Attorney can handle your finances if you become incapacitated.
- A Health Care Agent under an Advance Directive for Health Care works with your healthcare providers and insurance companies to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
Who Should I Choose to Serve as my Fiduciaries?
Deciding who will serve in these roles can be one of the most critical decisions you need to make as part of creating your estate plan. Questions to consider in making fiduciary selections include: Should you choose an individual, such as your spouse, another family member, a friend, or a trusted professional? Should you choose a corporate fiduciary, such as a bank, brokerage, or trust company, to serve alone or with a selected individual?
What are the Ideal Characteristics of Fiduciaries?
When choosing a fiduciary, you want to select someone who is responsible, honest, and trustworthy beyond any doubt. This person can be trusted to do the right thing, even if they need to enlist professional help. They will avoid conflicts of interest.
Strong fiduciaries also have:
- The ability to handle financial matters competently and without taking imprudent risks.
- Responsive communication skills, which reassures the family that everything is going well.
- Integrity; they’re unlikely to be a bad actor or abuse power.
- The willingness to complete tasks according to strict timelines with attention to detail.\
- Impartiality and a calm approach.
Who you choose to serve in your various fiduciary positions is a very important decision—you are giving them a lot of power and you do not want it misused or abused.
For more information, please see:
- Fiduciary Selection – A Critical Part of Any Well-Prepared Estate Plan
- Corporate Fiduciaries for Estate & Trusts: Reliability, Prudence, Reasonableness, Protection and Peace of Mind
- Tips on Choosing your Estate Planning Team
- The Not-So-Obvious Reasons that Estate, Trust, Conservatorship, and Guardianship Related Disputes Are Going to Explode in Number in the Future
- Goals of Estate Planning
- (Video) Selecting a Fiduciary
- (Video) How to Avoid Destructive Post-Death Disputes