A fiduciary is a broad legal term. Essentially, a fiduciary is a person who is invested with rights and powers to be exercised for the benefit of another person. A fiduciary in the context of this article is an administrator of an estate, a trustee of a trust, a court appointed guardian, or an agent of a power of attorney. Some people are able to easily name a fiduciary, often selecting their spouse or only child. However, other people struggle when there are not enough or too many options from which to choose.
To give a short answer, there is no such thing as the “perfect fiduciary.” The more appropriate question to ask is, “Who is the most suitable fiduciary?” For a majority of cases, a spouse is the most appropriate fiduciary. If one has no spouse and multiple children, some things to consider are:
- Who is most financially savvy?
- Who is more attuned to healthcare?
- Who is geographically closest?
If a person has no spouse or children, a close relative or friend may be appropriate. A family member or close family friend is usually the less expensive option. Above all else, honesty and trustworthiness are qualities you want in a fiduciary.
Some people may have complicated or vast assets. In terms of appointing an executor of an estate or trustee of a trust, it may be appropriate to appoint a corporate fiduciary to administer such assets. This is especially the case if family members or close friends are unwilling or unable to administer the estate or trust after one’s death. A corporate fiduciary can be more expensive and rigid with rules, especially if it is court supervised. When it comes to a special needs trust that is established through a court, the court will often insist that the trustee be an attorney or a corporate fiduciary.
Although an outlier of sorts, a good example of this is when music legend Prince died in 2016. Prince’s brothers and sisters were unable to administer his $300 million estate, which consists of “vaulted music,” real property, and music royalties, so they petitioned the probate court to allow a corporate fiduciary to administer the estate. The corporate fiduciary has the resources and expertise to handle Prince’s estate.
While there are many factors to consider when selecting a fiduciary, the cost, suitability, and trustworthiness of the prospective fiduciary are always great places to start. Although there may not be a perfect fiduciary, one can always find the most suitable.
- Posted by Attorney Ethan A. Welch