Professional Trustee?


Why Would I Need a Professional Trustee?

Given the advances in medicine, many of us are going to live much longer than our parents did. This also means that our children are much older when they inherit. Many audience members have asked, “Why would I need a professional trustee or executor when I have friends and family available to me?” I’ve been asked to write this article to explain the various roles that need to be fulfilled by the “Fiduciary” (the one who is trusted to take on all the liability and make sure you are taken care of, who then takes care of your beneficiaries), when the job is filled and who can do this big job. I will also touch on the licensing of Fiduciaries, as the State of California is unique in having a Department of Consumer Affairs, Professional Fiduciaries Bureau. Any references to the Probate Code are to that of California, as the Code varies from state to state. I strongly recommend that you discuss the concepts in this article with a local, qualified Estate Planning Attorney. If you have a body, you need a plan.

Have you ever known of anyone who has become suddenly ill? Maybe their children and grandchildren live out of town or have a very busy work life? Heard any stories about probate court or unscrupulous “new” friends/family when an individual could no longer manage for themselves? Many of these situations are completely preventable with good planning, and having selected the right people who will do the work. This article explores the advantages of an independent third-party managing your affairs during your lifetime and after your death.

Understand what your Trustee must do, whether it’s an inexperienced family member or a trained professional. What are you expecting this person to do and be for you; what if you are incapacitated, you have resigned as your own trustee or you have died? Most of my clients need some kind of help, as much as 2 or more years BEFORE death. After your death, IRS tax clearance is often not granted for up to three years after the final tax return is filed. So your selected Trustee may serve you personally for years, and still have years to serve after you’re gone. The job of looking after you, your health and your property is often overwhelming for a loved one, even if they feel duty bound and their heart is in the right place. Your loved one may feel he or she knows what is right for you, and will take on tasks and decisions that are beyond your written instructions. Your loved one is not trained to seek counsel on certain financial decisions that are governed by your detailed trust document, the probate code, ethical standards and commonly accepted protocol. Worse, your loved one’s choices and actions may be disputed by other beneficiaries if they are made aware, or your loved one may take advantage financially without even intending to. No one I have ever talked with has said they enjoyed the job of being the family Trustee/Executor.

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By: Marguerite C. Lorenz, CTFA, CLPF, Lorenz Fiduciary Services, Inc. Current Chairman of the Fiduciary Bureau Advisory Committee, Co-Author of “Ethics for Trustees” (

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