Frequently Asked Questions About Fiduciary Support

What is a fiduciary?

A fiduciary is a trained and knowledgeable individual who provides financial services and oversight for clients. Fiduciary services can include basic tasks such as bill-paying, organization and filing of bills and financial statements, checkbook balancing, account reconciliation and accounting reports generated for tax professionals as well as more complex financial tasks such as serving as trustee, successor trustee, representative payee or conservator. The term “fiduciary” literally means “One who stands in a special relation of trust, confidence, or responsibility in certain obligations to others.”

What is important to look for in a fiduciary?

It is essential that you or your loved ones find someone who is licensed as a Certified Professional Fiduciary, or licensed in a category such as an attorney, CPA or enrolled agent, and check several references for the individual in order to determine that the fiduciary professional is honest and trustworthy. The Professional Fiduciaries Association of California (PFAC) provides listings of fiduciaries and stipulates that all fiduciaries affiliated with PFAC satisfy its experience as well as annual education requirements. Additionally, PFAC members are governed by a stringent Code of Ethics.  Professional Fiduciaries are governed by state statute. Each California county has Probate Court as part of its Superior Court system. These Courts may appoint a professional fiduciary as a neutral third party to protect vulnerable and incapacitated people from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

What is a Care Manager?

A Care Manager is a trained and experienced professional who provides assessment of the various challenges confronting older or disabled adult individuals and their loved ones. A Care Manager is knowledgeable about the nonprofit agencies, governmental resources and private individuals who offer services in their local community. Knowing many of the service providers by reputation and direct experience, a Care Manager can coordinate referrals to honest and competent resources. In her assessment, a Care Manager examines the whole range of issues affecting each client’s well-being — including safety and fall prevention, transportation issues, daily care needs, relevant relationship challenges, advocacy needs with medical providers, and more. A competent Care Manager will interview the client and the client’s loved ones and other support network members to begin to build and strengthen a circle of support and community around the client. At Marchi Smith & Levin, we work to keep our clients and their support network members in close communication with each other so that the client does not “fall between the cracks.”

Why choose Marchi Smith & Levin as fiduciaries?

The entire MSL team delivers a unique assemblage of diverse skills. Applying its background and experience in trusts and estates law, fiduciary practice, therapy, customer service, and fiduciary accounting, MSL presents a comprehensive package of deliverables internally.  Additionally, Marchi Smith & Levin maintains larger administrative staff support than most professional fiduciary firms, resulting in greater responsiveness to client needs and allowing the firm to maintain client records, calendars and accountings in compliance with the highest standards. Furthermore, the team is constantly looking to improve its service model which has been developed over more than thirty years in business.

How do I know if I need a Care Manager?

You may need a Care Manager:

  • If you or your loved one is unable to manage all of the tasks inherent in running a household
  • If you are thinking that a move to a different living situation might be necessary
  • If you are thinking that isolation and/or a growing safety risk might be mounting issues
  • If you would like advice about services, solutions, alternatives and resources for older individuals in your area

How do you charge for your services?

When serving as your trustee, agent under power of attorney or as executor/administrator our fees are accrued as a percentage of the estate, although particular circumstances may dictate an hourly billing arrangement for certain matters. In court-supervised cases, the Probate Court approves our fees. In non-court-supervised cases, fees are usually addressed in the estate planning documents by providing for “reasonable” compensation.

We offer thirty minute in-office complementary consultations and we do not bill for our services until we actually begin serving. For example, when we are named as your successor trustee, we most likely will not bill for service until we assume the role as current trustee of your trust.

If we are serving in a fiduciary support role or as Care Manager, we bill on an hourly basis.

What if something happens to you – who would be my fiduciary?

We are accustomed to and will be happy to work with your legal adviser, to arrive at a solution that provides you with utmost satisfaction and confidence, regardless of the circumstance creating the need for an alternate fiduciary.