A fiduciary is someone authorized to act on behalf of another person, often in various financial capacities, such as the trustee for a trust or the executor of an estate. These individuals have a legal duty to act solely in the best interests of the person with whom they're in a fiduciary relationship.
Not only do fiduciaries have wide-ranging and consequential responsibilities, but acting as a fiduciary requires considerable skill and experience, as well as a significant investment of time and effort. This makes selecting a fiduciary—the trustee for a trust, or the executor, conservator, or power of attorney for your estate—one of the most important decisions you'll make during the estate planning process.
While people often choose a family member or close friend to act as a fiduciary, there are times when hiring a professional fiduciary may be a better option. If you are considering hiring a professional fiduciary to assist you or a loved one, here's what you should know—and what you should ask—when interviewing professional Virginia fiduciaries.
What Fiduciaries Do
Fiduciaries are responsible for executing their duties according to the terms of the trust, will, conservatorship, or power of attorney document. Individuals acting as a fiduciary may be tasked with:
- Handling finances
- Marshaling assets
- Collecting debts, rents, and other income
- Paying bills and taxes
- Making investment decisions
- Managing real estate and other types of tangible property
- Making distributions to trust or estate beneficiaries
- Keeping detailed records of income and expenditures
- Providing an annual accounting to the court
When to Consider a Professional Fiduciary
Fiduciaries play an essential role in estate and trust planning and administration. However, being a fiduciary can be challenging and, quite frankly, overwhelming for people without specialized training and experience. While there's no shame in reaching out to a professional fiduciary for assistance for any reason, here are a few reasons you may want to opt for professional fiduciary services:
- No suitable friends or relatives in the area
- Family estrangements
- Would-be fiduciaries are unsuitable due to untreated mental illness, immaturity, financial irresponsibility, existing obligations, or other reasons
- Estate or trust is particularly sizable or complex
- Potential for conflicts between beneficiaries
Perhaps most importantly, a professional fiduciary can provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that your trust or estate will be executed according to your wishes.
Vetting Fiduciary Professionals
A fiduciary's job often requires them to have access to your family's personal and financial information, which is why it is so imperative to ensure that you're working with a qualified and reputable professional. Asking questions like the following when interviewing professional fiduciaries can help you determine whether they're a good fit for you or your family's needs.
- What types of services do you provide?
- What are your credentials?
- What are your fees, and when are they assessed?
- How much do you estimate your services will cost my trust or estate?
- Do you have errors and omissions insurance?
- Do you work alone or do you have a staff? What types of services are delegated to staff members?
- What are your phone and office hours? Are you accessible by text or email?
- Can I reach you or your staff after hours if I have an emergency?
- How long do clients typically have to wait for you to respond to messages?
- How do you protect my confidential information?
- Do you have a disaster recovery plan for my data?
- Do you coordinate with other professionals, such as accountants or caregivers? What are their fees?
- How often will you provide an accounting?
- Can you provide references of past or current clients or other professionals you've worked with?
How We Can Help
Cucinelli Geiger, PC's trusted professional fiduciaries provide a wide variety of services, offering everything from occasional advice and step-by-step guidance to serving as a trustee, executor, guardian, conservator, or power of attorney for you and your family. We can assist you with paying bills and taxes, preparing inventories and accountings, closing or transferring accounts, and much, much more—including helping you navigate emotionally challenging and potentially contentious situations. Ready to find out what we can do for you?
Schedule a Consultation
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your fiduciary needs with one of our professional Virginia fiduciaries.