Originally from Japan, Haru and Miku (names changed for confidentiality) were residents of Orange County. Haru was the main caregiver for his wife, who had had a stroke several years earlier. Then Haru had a stroke. Miko, who was unable to talk and was fed through a feeding tube, managed to wheel herself to a neighbor’s house to let them know she needed help. They called 911, and Haru was taken to the hospital, leaving Miko with no one to help her. That’s when the professional fiduciary stepped in. Appointed by the court, the fiduciary was able to set Miko’s mind at ease that finances were adequate to take care of both her and her husband, get Miko the care she needed, and arrange for skilled nursing for Haru. The professional fiduciary was soon appointed as conservator for Haru as well, and was able to bring him home and provide in-home caregivers. The professional fiduciary also fulfilled Haru’s dreams of traveling to their house in Hawaii by arranging transportation and caregivers, even acquiring an all-terrain wheelchair so he could visit the areas he most cherished. When Miko passed away, the professional fiduciary honored the wishes of the couple by arranging a Buddhist funeral service.
This story is typical of the work done by professional fiduciaries in California. Professional fiduciaries are entrusted to provide financial and healthcare options that ensure a client’s dignity and peace of mind. They provide experience, resources and knowledge to oversee services like paying bills, investment management, medical care, housing, nutrition, and assist families with end-of-life decision making. They are strictly bound by the California Probate Code and ultimately answer to the Court even if the matter is not Court supervised. It’s a tough job and not for the faint of heart. In fact, most professional fiduciaries come to the job as a second or third career, feeling “called” by a desire to help people.
Californians are fortunate. The Professional Fiduciaries Act, enacted under California Business and Professions Code 6500, established the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau to “license, regulate and oversee individuals acting as a guardian or conservator of the person, estate, or both, for two or more individuals at the same time who are not related to the professional fiduciary or each other.” To date over 1,300 licenses have been issued by the Bureau, a division of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. California is unique in the nation, being one of only a handful of states requiring licensure and providing oversight for these services. The Bureau receives and investigates all complaints regarding professional fiduciaries and processes corrective and disciplinary action as required, including suspension or revocation of license and litigation referral.
If you’re a trusts and estates attorney, adding professional fiduciary capabilities to your professional offerings is a really gratifying way to become even more useful to your clients. Professional fiduciaries are dedicated experts, working to a high ethical standard and code of conduct. When individuals or families need a professional to ensure their wishes or those of their loved ones are carried through, a professional fiduciary can be counted on to carry those wishes through.
For more information about California Professional Fiduciaries, visit the Professional Fiduciary Association of California at PFAC-pro.org.