When the need for a private professional fiduciary arises, there are a few "routine" questions that should be asked:
What are your qualifications to serve as a trustee/conservator/administrator, etc?
Determine if the candidate has a background in nursing, finance, real estate, or other "life experience" that is compatible with the skills to be of service to you. It is the rare person who emerges from college with the motivation and maturity to work a private professional fiduciary. Does the proposed conservatee have medical challenges? Does the estate consist of real property that needs to be managed? Test out the PPF's work experience and find out why they have opted to be a fiduciary.
Who - will stand up for the fiduciary? Do they have references? Do they have specific attorneys that they opt to work with? Keep in mind that court-appointed personal representatives, conservators, and guardians are offices created by statute and there are rules about what needs to be done and when. "Who will be your attorney?" is a fair question because being a good fiduciary is a team effort. A lawyer who does not understand what he or she is doing is going to cause problems in your case.
How much do you charge per hour? How much do you delegate to your staff? Do you charge a flat rate for yourself and your employees? There is at least one PPF in the Los Angeles County area who informs the Court that he deserves to be paid $140.00 an hour due to his extensive experience over several decades. What he does not inform consumers or the Court is that 95% of the work charged for is not done by a licensed fiduciary, but rather by employees who are also billed at the same hourly rate.
Do you, personally, handle matters in which you are appointed? How often do you personally visit clients? What happens when you are on vacation?
If we (the attorneys, family, heirs) are unhappy with your services, what is your policy about leaving a case? In my opinion, there is only one right answer: I serve as fiduciary at your request, if you are dissatisfied or wish to have someone else appointed, I will fully cooperate in transitioning your matter to another fiduciary. No one should ever be forced to file a petition to remove a private professional fiduciary...and you should ask them if there are any such matters pending.
Guide to finding a Fiduciary
- Have a family conversation
- Select several advisors
- Ask questions
- Meet them face to face