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Are fees regulated?

In all court-supervised cases the probate court approves reasonable fees.  The California courts also require that a fee statement be submitted in advance, thus locking in the billing rate.  In non-court-supervised cases fees may be addressed in the estate planning documents but that does not lock in the rate for a successor not named. As each fiduciary has their own fee schedule, you should discuss what that rate is, how time is calculated, and when invoicing shall be expected.

Who needs a professional fiduciary?

Anyone who has taken the time to develop an estate plan and wishes to have an experienced professional administer it.  If you have concerns that your family may fight, then avoid the sibling rivalry by selecting a licensed fiduciary -- someone experienced working as a trustee, conservator, and power of attorney. 

I Need Your Services But Can't Afford Them

Pro-bono services are limited to 10-20% of our caseload and dependent on income and assets, current and future, and only available for conservatorships or powers of attorney. In such cases, we still bill for our time and if it is determined that a person does have funds then they are responsible for payment. However, if there are no funds, we will write off the loses.

What is blended billing and do you offer it?

Blended billing is a method where a single fiduciary may attempt to provide pricing levels to offer flexibility in the services that he offers, much like you would find in an office with several staff members.  Unfortunately it appears to be the norm that the fiduciary increases his rate and then puts the core services at a rate equivalent to that of a flat-rate fiduciary.  For example, a trustee (fiduciary) may charge a rate of $225/hr for his services, $195/hr for  an associate to attend to other tasks under the supervision of the trustee, $125/hr for administrative tasks, and $100/hr to schedule appointments or answer calls.  If 50% of all tasks are administrative, 40% at associate, and 10% at trustee then your weighted rate is $163/hr.

Konsulati does not offer blended billing.  Our method of automation reduces the time needed to perform a task.  The difference is in the experience to complete a task efficiently.  Thus with our fixed hourly rate you’ll pay less compared to a blended billing model.

Conservatorships / Guardianships / Committee(s)

How is a conservator or committee appointed?

All conservatorships and/or committee(s) are appointed by regional courts.  The petitioner is usually contacted by a concerned person about a person needing help with daily living activities and/or fianances.  The petitioner will require an attorney to petition the courts and additional personnel from the courts will be assigned to ensure a conservatorship/committee is warranted.

What does a conservator or committee do?

A conservator / committee is the person who is legally appointed to manage the estate and/or health of the infirmed. A conservatorship / committee is a legal tool to provide management for the financial and/or personal affairs of individuals deemed by the court to be physically or mentally incapacitated. A conservatee or Infirmed Person is a person who is the subject of a conservatorship/committee. A Conservator/Committee of the Person is appointed by the court to assume responsibility for decisions regarding the health and welfare of a person. 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. A Conservator/Committee of the Estate is responsible for the prudent use and protection of the infirm's assets. The conservator/committee is responsible for inventorying, marshalling and managing all assets and benefits belonging to the infirmed. The conservator/committee receives income, pays obligations of the estate, applies for pensions, and organizes data for the preparation of income tax returns and other related duties.

What is a representative payee?

Any person may be designated by the Social Security Administration or other retirement plans to receive the income and pay the expenses of an incapacitated individual.  We do not serve independent of any other designation (e.g. estate trustee, conservator/committee, or power of attorney).

How is a conservatee or infirmed person protected?

The local probate court often appoints an attorney to represent the alleged incapacitated person. A court investigator is also appointed by the court to determine the need for a conservator / committee and to recommend a suitable person, or approve of the nominated petitioner, to serve in that role. All issues and information are brought before a probate court judge who decides if the person is incapacitated or in need of protection and, accordingly, appoints a conservator/committee. The appointed fiduciary is accountable to the court for his or her work. The fiduciary must report to the court and receive the court's approval in carrying out his responsibilities as specified in Letters of Conservatorship / Committee but may also ask the court for additional information when necessary. A surety bond for the conservator/committee is required, which is intended to protect the assets of the infirm's estate. Note that the bond is paid from the infirm's estate since the protection is for the conserved (infirmed).

Estate and Trust Administration

What does an estate trustee do?

An estate trustee has the responsibility of carrying out the terms of the trust estate as set forth in an estate or trust document. A trust (estate) can be created by the language found in a will or a document created during life. If the former, it is a testamentary trust; if the latter, it is a living trust. The trustee is usually a person named by the creator of the trust in the trust document. In some cases, the trustee cannot carry out his or her duties either because of incapacity or death. If there is no named successor trustee who can serve, the court has the responsibility of appointing a successor estate trustee, usually someone who is nominated by the trust beneficiary(s), or by petition by an independent.

Estate trustee duties can include funding the trust with appropriate assets, safeguarding assets, investing the trust assets according to the Prudent Investor Rule (as set forth in the Probate Code), reporting to beneficiaries (as set forth in the Probate Code) filing income tax returns for the trust and making distributions in accordance with the trust terms.

What is an executor?

An executor is any individual appointed by the probate court to administer the estate of a person who has died, referred to as a “decedent.” This person will either act as an Executor if named in the will, or as an Administrator if not named in the will, or if there is no will. The executor inventories and safeguards assets, collects income, verifies and pays obligations, identifies and notifies heirs and beneficiaries, and distributes assets.

Power of Attorney (Finance/Health) and Advance Health Care Directives

What is a power of attorney?

The responsibilities of a fiduciary acting as an Agent under Power of Attorney include the following: For health care, the fiduciary acts as attorney-in-fact to make health-care decisions, including placement, medical, treatment and final burial arrangements. More recently an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) provides this guidance.  However, one also needs to include a HIPAA agreement for their agent to have access to medical records as some medical professionals will not honor the AHCD alone. For financial matters, the fiduciary conducts personal and financial business pursuant to the client’s written instructions.

When should I (or my parent) appoint you as power of attorney?

Before cognitive issues develop, including dementia or Alzheimer's because Powers of Attorney cannot be signed if a person lacks capacity. If the latter applies, then mom or dad will need to be conserved (conservatorship).

Fiduciary Qualifications

In what specific roles do fiduciaries serve?

Fiduciaries serve by court appointment as estate trustees, court-appointed committee(s) or conservatorship(s), guardians, and/or personal representatives of estates. They also serve by agreement as estate trustees and/or agents under powers of attorney.  Additionally, they may serve in any capacity of the estate's trust assets, such as property manager and/or business manager.

Who monitors fiduciaries?

Fiduciaries are governed by state or provincial statute. Each county or province has a probate court as part of its (superior) court system. While court-supervised matters have an extra layer of protection, all fiduciary accounts are protected by state or provincial licensing by way of their respective probate code.  Additionally, any fiduciary who is a member of any organization is held in accordance with those bylaws and ethics codes.

How do you select a qualified fiduciary?

Fiduciaries must meet the requirements of their state or provincial licensing agencies, which generally require annual review and approval of continuing education units (CEUs), along with the ability to be bonded.  CEUs may be acquired by attending affiliated vendor educational conferences and/or meetings but do not require membership of said organizations. While some may advocate for membership of an organization, it is not a requirement any longer to be a member of such whereas prior to licensing it was the only form of protection the consumer had for complaints. A consumer should consider the caseload of a fiduciary -- lots of cases means less consideration to your family dynamics or attention to detail.  Educational background and community involvement should be considered -- is the fiduciary experienced with nursing or business (a common difference in fiduciaries).  These are just a few examples of what to consider.  The bottom line is one should look for a well-rounded skillset and a personality to match what you or your family expect in the long run.

What are the educational requirement to become a fiduciary?

Continuing education is a very important part of maintaining ones license. However, before one can claim licensure, they must qualify by experience or by education. It is important to realize that prior to legislation there were no formal degree requirements. With the creation of the Fiduciaries Bureau that changed to ensure world-knowledge experience to provide for a better service to those being protected.

Now one must hold a baccalaureate as a minimum to consider a new career as a fiduciary. The exceptions are with experience: an associates and three years of experience, or no degree and five years of experience. Note that experience is not one client but three or more unrelated persons.

To promote continued growth and understanding of legislative changes, every fiduciary must complete 15 units of continuing education units (CEUs) per year, with three (3) units of ethics related material.

Corporate Compliance

Do you maintain vendor EEO compliancy?

In order to be considered for client service work, all vendors must have a posted Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy accepted by the Human Rights Campaign to ensure that our clients are protected. Please understand that it is not enough to simply state that you adhere to Federal, State, and Local laws as it does not provide clear understanding of our clients' diversity and differences. A vendor who actively promotes a broadly worded EEO statement shall make it clear to its employees that they are protected, and by training their staff of diversity, shall ensure that our clients' rights and privacy will be protected.

For additional information and reading, please visit the following:

Do You Have a Succession Plan?

No one wants to plan for their demise or incapacity, and fiduciaries are not exempt from unexpected medical or life events.  Thus, we have established and documented succession plans to ensure our clients’ needs do not fall through the cracks.  You spent the time to find a fiduciary to administer your estate and the last thing you want is to have to go to court to replace him/her in the event of their death or other event. Since we have automated many client processes, a change in client management will be seamless.

What do you do to protect your clients' information?

In a day and age when retail giants are having their customers' credit card information hacked and used for nefarious purposes, it's important to protect data aggressively.  We maintain our corporate firewall and all backups are encrypted with randomly generated SSL keys when the backup begins.  Before online data can be accessed, our administrator must receive a security key from the provider.  That way, login to our backups have an extra layer of protection. 

Estate or Trust Administration

A trustee will manage investments, keep records, manage assets, prepare court accountings, pay bills (depending on the nature of the trust) medical expenses, charitable gifts, inheritances or other distributions of income and principal. Trustees are not required to exercise all of the powers that they are granted.[2] A trustee can manage any number of trust types, including Charitable, Special Needs Trusts, ILIT, Corporate, and Estate Trusts.

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Conservator / Committee

The term conservatorship is synonymous with elderly guardian but used mostly in the western United States. It is a court-appointed process that can be very expensive as the petitioners and proposed conservatee all must be represented by attorneys, with just a few exceptions for in pro per family members without objections. The reason for the expense is that the proposed conservatee's estate is expected to bear the burden of the court costs in the procedures to appoint.

Powers of Attorney

Under common law, a power of attorney becomes ineffective if its grantor dies or becomes "incapacitated," meaning unable to grant such a power, because of physical injury or mental illness, for example, unless the grantor (or principal) specifies that the power of attorney will continue to be effective even if the grantor becomes incapacitated. This type of power of attorney is called "power of attorney with durable provisions" in the United States or "enduring power of attorney" elsewhere. In effect, under a durable power of attorney (DPoA) [1] Read more

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