Fiduciary Management Specialists
Services and Appointments

Guardian is appointed by the probate court to ensure that the personal and medical needs of an incapacitated person are met. A person is determined by the court to be incapacitated when he or she lacks sufficient understanding or “capacity” to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his or her daily living needs. Incapacity is usually a result of physical or mental illness, accident or dementia.  If the court determines that a person is incapacitated and there is a demonstrated need for a guardian, it will appoint an appropriate person according to state law to serve as guardian.  The incapacitated person then becomes the legal responsibility of the guardian. Each year the guardian must submit a report to the court documenting the progress made in managing the ward’s personal affairs.

Conservator is appointed by the probate court to manage the financial affairs of someone who is determined by the court to be unable to manage his or her own finances, assets and property.

The conservator manages the assets of the protected person for his or her benefit under the court’s supervision. Each year the conservator must file an accounting with the court and receive the court’s approval. This annual accounting must balance from year to year and show all receipts and disbursements made during the year.

Personal Representative is appointed by the probate court to administer the estate of a person who died, who is referred to as the “decedent”. The personal representative is responsible for identifying, inventorying and protecting all of the assets in the estate, paying bills and allowable claims against the estate, locating all of the heirs and beneficiaries, paying the administrative costs of probating the estate, managing the tax  reporting requirements and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries.

Representative Payee is designated by the Social Security Administration or other income benefit plans to receive the income and pay the expenses of an individual who is not able to do so.

Trustee manages property held by a trust. A trust is a legal entity created by one or more persons called “trustors,” who appoint a trustee to manage the trust’s assets according to the terms of the trust. Trustors usually name themselves as the primary beneficiaries during their lifetime. Upon creating a trust, the trustors then transfer ownership of their properties and financial accounts to the trust. The trustee then manages those assets for the benefit of the trustors or the beneficiaries named in the trust.  Trustors may serve as trustees of their own trust. An important element of a trust is that it names a “successor trustee” who will take over when the current trustee dies, resigns or becomes unable to manage the trust. The trust agreement instructs the trustee how the estate is to be managed during the lifetime of the trustors, and managed, distributed and settled following their deaths.  Because of their experience in managing and settling estates, private fiduciaries are often designated successor trustees. Banks also may serve as trustees. While certified fiduciaries are usually paid by the hour or for specific services they provide, banks are paid a percentage of the estate’s value to manage and invest the trust’s assets.  It is important to remember that a trust is created to manage the assets of trustors, not to manage their personal care. Trustors often arrange with the fiduciary designated as successor trustee to also manage their personal care, if and when needed, through powers of attorney.

Power of Attorney is a legal statement by an individual, the “principal,” which authorizes another person, the “agent,” to act and make decisions for the benefit of the principal.  Powers of attorney are used for making financial and medical decisions and for other purposes. The principal must have the capacity to understand what he or she is signing and what power or powers he or she is giving to the agent.