Sometimes the courts will appoint a son or daughter to manage their parent’s care. If you are in a similar position, here is my insider’s scoop: If you have the financial ability, hire a professional fiduciary to manage the needs of your mom or dad.
The Role of a Professional Fiduciary
Many people believe that professional fiduciaries manage just the financial assets of the individual they represent. But their role isn’t limited to a person’s money. Rather, they are responsible for the entire person, including physical care and housing.
The laws vary by state, but the courts will appoint a fiduciary—also called a guardian or conservator—when a person can no longer manage their affairs or when the person has been deemed a danger to themselves and others. For this reason, the fiduciary must assume a position of trust and responsibility. As part of that, they are legally required to avoid self-dealing or conflicts of interest in which the potential benefit to them conflicts with what is best for the person they are responsible for.
Avoiding conflicts of interest is a huge problem for families. That is one of the reasons that families with the financial means to hire a professional fiduciary should go ahead and do so. It removes a potential source of stress and family division and puts the care of a loved one in the hands of a professional.
Screening a Professional Fiduciary
If you decide to hire a professional fiduciary for your mom or dad, the first step to take is to locate one. You can do so by finding out the professional fiduciaries that the court appoints.
Next, you will want to screen potential fiduciaries based on their financial and physical expertise. Their expertise in both areas should dovetail with your parent’s needs:
- Financial: Screen for experience that is related to your parent’s assets. What if your dad owns a farm? Or what if your mom has a small business? Look for fiduciaries experienced in managing those assets.
- Physical: Screen for experience that is related to your parent’s physical needs. Does your dad have Alzheimer’s? Has your mom had a stroke? A fiduciary experienced in your parent’s conditions will know the applicable resources and services in the community.
Once you have hired a professional fiduciary, you can expect them to take measured, thoughtful action on your parent’s behalf. They will create a care plan that is tailored to your loved one’s needs. And like a general contractor who works with subcontractors, your fiduciary will oversee the lawyers, nurses, social workers, and other professionals who will help carry out the care plan.
The result can be less stress for you as a caretaker or caregiver, and peace of mind knowing that a professional fiduciary is tending to the needs of your loved one.