As Care Managers in San Diego we frequently find families that benefit from the services of trusted Fiduciaries, such as Marguerite Lorenz and Lorenz Fiduciary Services, when making important decisions about planning for their future. We are pleased to highlight their services in this blog. Fiduciaries are are an important component of many of our collaborative home care teams. Marguerite C. Lorenz, CTFA, CLPF #319 was appointed by Governor Brown in 2012 and is currently serving as Chairman of the Department of Consumer Affairs, Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, Advisory Committee. She is Founder and Host of www.EstatePlanning101.org in San Diego, California, educating hundreds of San Diegans annually about the value of estate planning.
She began her career as a California Licensed Professional Fiduciary in 2003 alongside her stepmother, Jane B. Lorenz, CPA, CLPF #314 and in 2008, was joined by Clay B. Spiegel, CPA, CLPF #608. Together, they run Lorenz Fiduciary Services, Inc., an accountancy corporation of eight employees, with locations in San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties. Each of these Professional Fiduciaries have completed the Certificate for Professional Fiduciary Management through Cal State Fullerton, in addition to their other credentials. Jane, Marguerite and Clay each serve as individual Trustees, Executors, and Agents under the Power of Attorney for Finance and Advance Health Care Directives. If you would like to talk with one of them, please arrange a brief phone appointment at 877-630-8448.
Marguerite holds the credentials of Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (a bank trust officer designation) and Enrolled Agent (inactive). Marguerite is a member of the faculty on www.AttorneyCredits.com and you can learn more about her on her company website, www.MyTrustee.net.
In her interview below, Marguerite answers important questions about what role a Fiduciary serves and how to go about finding one to fit your needs.
Do I need an estate plan?
What would happen to you, and who will take care of things for you for your benefit, if you became so sick you could not do anything for yourself?
Most people think of estate planning as a way to control only what happens to your money and things when you die. In reality, your written plan (drafted by a qualified attorney) is used, by your Fiduciary, to protect your quality of life when you experience incapacity or serious illness, in addition to following your particular wishes at your death. Knowing more about your estate plan, and who will manage it for you when the time comes, can prevent elder financial abuse!
While you are feeling good and thinking clearly, you need to select someone you trust, who will put your needs before their own, to serve you when you are the one who needs help and protection. The person who fulfills this role is your Fiduciary. Select this person carefully, as he or she has a big job to do and you may not want to select someone who has a conflict of interest, such as one of your beneficiaries.
In what role do you serve as a Fiduciary?
In your Estate Plan, there are four basic documents, which you and your attorney work together to prepare. Your Fiduciary (who could be a professional, a family member or friend) generally becomes responsible for your entire estate; Tax, Legal, Financial and Medical issues are the roots of this responsibility.
Below, I list each of the documents, the role in which I serve, and a brief description of what each document covers:
- The Trust – Successor Trustee – You are the first Trustee of your Trust. The Trust operates both when you are alive and after you have passed away and can control important issues like; how you choose to live, who you choose to support, how you will be cared for if you become incapacitated, the standards others have to follow to receive your generosity and who is in charge of getting the work done, etc.
- The Will – Executor – Your “Last Will and Testament” is your written plan for your assets after your death. Often, a “Pour Over” will is used in conjunction with the Trust documents and instructs the Executor to put assets into the Trust if this was not accomplished before death. This document also lists who you select as guardian(s) for minor children.
- Power of Attorney for Finance – Attorney-in-Fact (or Agent) – This document may have different titles and yet it has far reaching instructions and is only in effect while you are living. We recommend that you read all of your documents and understand when your Attorney-in-Fact can begin serving you.
- Advance Health Care Directive – Agent for Healthcare – Your selected Agent may be the one to decide what medical procedures will be performed on you, when you cannot speak for yourself. We recommend that a friend or family member who is close to you serve as Agent. Add a Professional Fiduciary as the last Alternate Agent, even if you have someone in your family to select, so you can have the advantage of experience and resources. We are willing to serve in this role and we strive to understand your wishes and carry them out.
When do people generally hire a Fiduciary?
Whether or not you have healthy, capable adult children, or you are married or single, I strongly recommend interviewing and selecting your Fiduciary now, and getting your estate plan in writing right away, so you can develop a relationship with the person you are trusting with everything. In my practice, there is no cost for getting acquainted. This way, you can review the written fee schedule and discuss expectations.
Often, I am asked to serve when the adult children have fought so much, they no longer speak to each other and have to find a neutral third party professional; and when the financially adept husband has died and his wife, who never handled any of the finances, felt overwhelmed.
Too often, a Fiduciary is not selected until a crisis occurs, like the examples above. Why create an opportunity for your kids to fight with each other? Why not talk about your expectations and hopes with your estate planning attorney, so you can prevent expensive legal fights and heart break? Many people tell me that their kids get along fine and I suggest that we all want to keep it this way. With the help of a qualified estate planning attorney, you could be saving your family thousands of dollars by getting a good plan in the first place, which can be managed properly, for when the time comes.
Your CPA or Financial Advisor should be able to refer you to a few estate planning attorneys fiduciaries, so you can develop a good professional relationship that will last your lifetime. You should not only get your estate plan done now, but plan to update your documents from time to time, as your life grows and changes.
When does the Fiduciary “go to work”?
It could be many years before your Fiduciary goes to work for you, and you should ask about how the two of you will stay in contact, and how the Fiduciary plans to get to know you better, during your interview process. Once your estate plan documents are completed, signed and dated, you and your attorney will make sure that your trust is “funded”. This means that the title to your real property will change, among other tasks, so that when the time comes to “administer” the trust, all goes smoothly; the way you planned it. As mentioned before, you are the first trustee of your own trust, and there will be provisions in your documents that instruct how your successor goes to work and under what circumstances.
So, the three “triggering events” are incapacity, resignation and death. In all three ways, there are documents necessary (incapacity = letters from the doctors, resignation = a written resignation signed by you, or a death certificate) so that your successor can go to work.
For instance (and again, please discuss this with your attorney), your documents may say that your successor trustee becomes active when two licensed physicians (who are not related to you or your beneficiaries) write letters that say you are no longer capable of managing your own affairs. A more graceful way to put your successor to work is to resign as trustee of your trust and when your successor “accepts”, he or she has the authority to begin. When and how are great questions to explore with each your Fiduciary and your attorney.
What should I look for in choosing a qualified Fiduciary?
Here are some questions to consider when selecting someone who will serve you when you can no longer serve yourself (this individual can be your friend, family member, Licensed Professional Fiduciary or other professional):
- Does my successor trustee have experience and expertise in handling finances? Good accounting and bookkeeping skills? Trust and Estate tax experience?
- Will my successor trustee remain objective, responsive and compatible with all beneficiaries of the trust and other members of the family?
- Will my successor trustee be able to devote sufficient time to the management of the trust, unburdened by other obligations such as a job or a family for three years or more?
- Is my successor trustee also a beneficiary, causing a “natural conflict of interest”?
Even if you choose a family member/beneficiary to serve, expect to reasonably compensate your fiduciary. Professional Fiduciaries should share their fees with you in writing. Talk to your estate planning attorney about how to compensate family members or other amateurs. Consider whether or not you feel your fiduciary “knows” you and make some effort to communicate your preferences and desires. No one can help you achieve your goals if you don’t say what they are!
Before interviewing a Professional Fiduciary, go to www.Fiduciary.CA.gov to check his or her license status. At this writing, California is the only state I know of where Fiduciaries are licensed through the Department of Consumer Affairs, Fiduciary Licensing Bureau. Interview at least three Fiduciaries. You will need more than one person, because you should have at least two people in succession after you, and you want to feel safe and comfortable with the people you select. You may be in the midst of your estate planning process with your attorney, or you may not have started yet. What matters is that you feel good about the people on your team and can reasonably expect them to be there when you need them!
Here are some questions you can ask at the interview:
- How and why did you become a Fiduciary?
- What are your internal controls like?
- How are you insured and by which company?
- What happens to me if something happens to you (or what is your succession plan)?
- What’s your process for getting to know me?
If you want to learn more about what is expected of your Fiduciary, please read “Ethics for Trustees: A Guide for All Who Serve as Trustee” written by me and Jane B. Lorenz, CPA, CLPF #314. There is nothing tougher on a family than when the patriarch and/or matriarch have made no written plan to guide the next generation. If you are single, or have no children, you really need to make a plan for your own well being.
If you are proactive in your planning, you have a much better chance of living the Quality of Life you have created for yourself to the very end of your life. If you do no planning, you may become most vulnerable when you should be most protected.
I welcome emailed questions and as an educator in these topics. I will be offering an occasional newsletter to encourage and empower you to maintain your estate plan as a reflection of your life and values. If you send an email and include your first and last name to [email protected] – I will send you a free article, “Who Needs a Professional Fiduciary?” Please let me know how my suggestions have worked for you and most importantly, work with your qualified estate planning attorney to get your estate plan into writing as soon as possible.
Grace Care Management personally thanks Marguerite Lorenz for her valuable time and for sharing her expertise with us!