Lawyers typically serve as advocates. We protect our clients’ rights in the boardroom, in the courtroom, in the negotiating room, and before government agencies. We negotiate, or litigate, successful legal outcomes for our clients. This protection covers your health, your interests in real property, your business, your assets and estate, your finances, your spouse, children and extended family. Our motto “For the Life of Your Business and the Business of Your Life” encapsulates our philosophy.
We also serve as “fiduciaries”. A fiduciary is a legal representative who has a duty to manage and protect money and property in which others hold a legal interest. We serve as fiduciaries when we are appointed as a Representative of an Estate, or as Trustee of a Trust. As fiduciaries, we preserve, invest and manage the money and assets that are held in the Estate or Trust. When do you need a legal ‘representative’ or fiduciary? When you place money or property into a newly formed trust. When a family member, or person close to you must step down as trustee of a trust in which you (and possibly members of your family or close associates) have an interest. When someone has died and you have an interest in their estate; and no one has been appointed, or you do not know if someone has been appointed to act on behalf of the estate, to protect the estate from creditors, to manage the estate’s assets and realty, to collect income and pay its bills, and preserve those assets until the it is the proper time for assets to be distribution. If you are concerned that a current trustee or estate representative lacks the ability to perform his or her duties; or unfortunately, has committed some improper acts with the trust or estate property, you may seek the removal and replacement of that trustee or representative.
What is the difference between a fiduciary and a guardian or conservator? A guardian or a conservator is appointed when a person becomes incapacitated or lacks the ability to manage or protect their money and property. Typically, a doctor or mental health professional must provide a written statement that the person is incapacitated. The guardian or conservator’s appointment creates a legal duty to the specific incapacitated person. Fiduciaries are appointed to protect an estate or a trust. This means that the Trustee or Estate Representative has a duty to the estate heirs and the trust beneficiaries. Their “fiduciary duty” stems from the trust or estate appointment. The mental capacity of the beneficiaries or heirs is not a key element in the trustee or representative’s appointment.
Clients who think that they need a lawyer to act as a trustee or personal representative should consult with a lawyer with deep experience in probate and family law. Seder & Chandler, LLP has been providing such legal services for over 100 years to clients who need fiduciary protection.
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