Q. I would like to prepare an estate plan, but I do not have a spouse, children or relative whom I could name as executor or trustee. Any thoughts about how I can proceed under these circumstances?
A. Yes, and be assured that you are not alone. Many persons find themselves in your situation, whether because they do not have a spouse, relatives or children, or because there is such strong sibling rivalry among their children that nominating one child in preference to others would be unworkable. Under these circumstances, one solution is to nominate a private Professional Fiduciary.
A Professional Fiduciary is an individual licensed by the State of California to serve in a fiduciary capacity as an executor, trustee and/or agent under a power of attorney or advance healthcare directive. In order to be licensed, an individual must meet certain education and/or experience requirements, pass a criminal background and credit check, participate in continuing education, pass an examination, make annual reports to the state regarding estates under management, and subscribe to a Professional Fiduciaries Code of Ethics. Fiduciaries are regulated by the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, a licensing entity within the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Professional fiduciaries typically have significant experience in managing financial assets and can often provide the financial skills of a large financial institution without the restrictive policies which often accompany such organizations. Further, an individual serving as a professional fiduciary may be more responsive to the needs of a person or family than a large institution.
Some private professional fiduciaries employ full and part-time staff members and handle several millions of dollars of client funds. In addition to managing money, they also often deal with difficult people and interpersonal situations. Some even specialize in working with difficult families. Most are members of the Professional Fiduciary Association of California (PFAC).
The concern in your case is how to select a professional fiduciary now, whom you know will be able and willing to serve in the future upon your passing or incapacity. One solution might be to make an open nomination, designating a member of PFAC in good standing, albeit with the proviso that the specific individual to ultimately serve would be nominated by the president of the organization at the time of need. Alternatively, you might nominate a person whom you trust, such as your pastor, priest or rabbi, to be a “fiduciary designator”, and authorize him to make a future selection when the need arises. If you opt for this method, be sure to name a successor designator, just in case your first choice is unavailable.
If you have a more immediate need, you might make your own selection now and arrange to meet with your fiduciary from time to time to keep him or her abreast of your circumstances. If he will also serve as your health care agent, be sure to discuss your end of life wishes with him, consider bringing him to an occasional medical appointment and provide him access to your medical records.
PFAC provides more information on its website, as well as a search function to help you locate professional fiduciaries in your area willing to serve. To explore this further visit www.pfac-pro.org or call 866-886-7322.
References: Professional Fiduciaries Act (Business & Professions Code § 6500–6592).