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If you are planning your estate, you may have heard the term “fiduciary” a few times. Every estate has a fiduciary, whether you choose one or not. For you to have the most control over what happens to your possessions after you pass away, you should take the time to appoint a fiduciary yourself. This guide will answer the question of what a fiduciary is and what his or her role is in estate planning.

What Is a Fiduciary?

The term fiduciary exists outside of estate planning. It is essentially a term for anyone who has the ability to act on behalf of another. In estate planning, a fiduciary is the individual or group that has control over the estate and aims to fulfill the estate owner’s wishes as best as possible. There are several types of fiduciaries:

  • Executor of a will
  • Trustee of a trust
  • Power-of-attorney-named agent
  • Court appointed fiduciary

The most important aspect of a fiduciary is that you can trust him or her absolutely.

What a Fiduciary Does

Essentially, your fiduciary is responsible for ensuring your estate is used how you want it to. If you have a will, the executor is responsible for handling the many legal obligations of carrying out the will, including taxes and probate. Likewise, a trustee is responsible for ensuring the beneficiary receives the appropriate items and all obligations of the trust are fulfilled. No matter what kind of fiduciary you have, their authority is subject to the authority of a court and only begins at the time of the estate owner’s death. In the event an agent is appointed by a power of attorney, their authority begins immediately, whether or not the estate owner is still alive.

Choosing a Fiduciary

The most important aspect to consider when choosing a fiduciary is trust. The person you choose needs to be responsible. A common choice is one’s spouse or child, but anyone you have utmost faith in to fulfill your wishes can be your fiduciary. It is also common to appoint a legal professional to be a fiduciary. Another aspect to consider is that your choice may cause some waves. Some people may be hurt that someone else was chosen for the role. Conflict over the estate could consume some of the estate’s value to be resolved. It is a good idea to consider this aspect carefully when choosing a fiduciary. Speak with an estate planning lawyer in Sacramento, CA for advice on the best way to handle this part of planning your estate.

Thanks to the Yee Law Group for their insight into estate planning and fiduciaries.

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