A fiduciary is an individual or entity entrusted with the responsibility to act in the best interests of another party, often placing the latter’s interests ahead of their own. This relationship is characterized by a high standard of loyalty, honesty, and integrity. Fiduciaries are legally and ethically bound to make decisions and take actions that prioritize the well-being and objectives of the beneficiary.
Common examples of fiduciary relationships include those between trustees and beneficiaries, personal representatives (executors) and beneficiaries, and attorneys and clients. Fiduciary duties encompass managing assets, providing accurate information, avoiding conflicts of interest, and exercising a duty of care.
A breach of fiduciary duty can result in legal consequences due to the violation of the trust bestowed upon the fiduciary. The fiduciary relationship serves as a cornerstone in various sectors, promoting accountability and safeguarding the interests of those who rely on their fiduciaries’ expertise and judgment.
A personal representative is an individual appointed by the probate court to represent the estate of the deceased. This person is sometimes referred to as the executor of the Will. The Personal Representative plays a critical role in the administration of the deceased’s estate, particularly in the interaction or requirements of Probate. Probate is the court-supervised process used to identify and gather a deceased’s assets, pay debts owed by the deceased, and distribute assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the Will or Florida laws on intestate succession. Most of the tasks required in Probate fall on the shoulders of the estate’s Personal Representative, also known as the Executor or Administrator.
The tasks of the Personal Representative are:
1. Gather and consolidate Decedent’s assets
2. Communicate with beneficiaries regarding the status of estate and distributions
3. Pay funeral and other administrative expenses on behalf of the estate
4. Work with a realtor and assist with the sale of the home
5. Remove tangible personal property from home and either distribute to beneficiaries or work with charity to donate
6. Work with a CPA to prepare final income tax returns
Trusts are a popular estate planning tool, often included in an individual’s estate plan. The trustee is the individual or institution that administers the trust. A trustee plays a pivotal role in managing and safeguarding assets, investments, and property on behalf of beneficiaries. Acting as a fiduciary, a trustee is bound by legal and ethical obligations to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and to manage the entrusted resources diligently. The trustee is tasked with ensuring that the grantor’s wishes are followed. As the trustee, they are responsible for managing the trust and can be held accountable if they mismanage the trust.
The responsibilities of the Trustee are:
1. Work with a financial advisor to manage investments
2. Prepare annual trust accountings for the beneficiary
3. Work with the beneficiary to create a budget for monthly expenses/distribution
4. Handle bill paying for beneficiary with online banking
5. Work with the beneficiary to provide distributions for additional expenses such as college tuition, down payment on the home, purchase of a vehicle, etc.
6. Work with a CPA to prepare income tax returns for the trust
To learn how Attorney James Nici can act as the Trustee for a Trust or the Personal Representative, please contact our office and set a time to discuss either of these very important fiduciary services.
Based in Naples, the Nici Law Firm offers legal guidance in Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Asset Protection, Probate services, Business Planning, Florida Domicile, and the Strategic Estate Planning System. We serve clients throughout the state of Florida: Naples, Bonita Springs, Marco Island, Ave Maria, Immokalee, Estero, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Sanibel and more.
Contact our office today at (239) 449-6150 or use our web form to set up a free consultation.