W. A. (Sam) Hlavaty, CLPF
phone: (760) 244-6592
fax: (866) 519-5326


What is a Professional Fiduciary?

A Professional Fiduciary is an educated, experienced, fair, impartial, trained and licensed individual who plays a vital role in today's society. A Professional Fiduciary can improve the quality of your life, lift the burden of daily care and property management and give you peace of mind that they will perform their duties with the utmost care and respect.

  • A Professional Fiduciary assists our most vulnerable populations: the elderly, the disabled and those who can no longer care for themselves or their loved ones. They assist independent people to make sound daily decisions about their financial and/or health care matters.
  • A Professional Fiduciary is the person who says "NO" to people - family members, friends and others - who would attempt to take advantage of or abuse their client, putting a stop to potential abuse.
  • A Professional Fiduciary ensures that the desires expressed in your Will are respected and adhered to after your passing.
  • A Professional Fiduciary administers your Trust according to its terms, either before or after your passing.

Relying on a Professional Fiduciary who has been schooled in the sometimes overwhelming management and administration of estate assets lifts an enormous burden from you, your family and loved ones who may no longer be up to these tasks. Whether you designated a Professional Fiduciary in your Trust to serve now or in the future or in your Will, you can rest assured that your personal and financial affairs will be diligently and timely handled as directed in your estate planning documents. A Professional Fiduciary acts as the conduit to coordinate the wide variety of services and protections needed to fully serve their client. Professional Fiduciaries interact with you and all parties fairly and even handedly. Your Trust, Conservatorship or Will establishes the extent and scope of their duties.

What does it take to be a Professional Fiduciary?

As with most licensed professions, a California Licensed Professional Fiduciary cannot merely hang out their shingle and proclaim to be one. A four year college degree, plus specific additional educational requirements, must be met before one can even apply to take both the California and the National Professional Fiduciary Exams. California requires that one pass both sections of the exams to be eligible for licensing. Additionally, extensive criminal and civil background checks are performed and the applicant is fingerprinted. A Professional Fiduciary has more stringent annual reporting requirements than either an attorney or a paralegal and must meet minimum continuing educational requirements annually. For each Court supervised case, in depth credit checks are conducted to meet Court ordered bonding requirements. Annual accountings are required of all Court supervised cases. All requests for payment of fiduciary fees are reviewed by the Court.

When should I hire a private Professional Fiduciary?

  • When a person decides they are unable or no longer wish to manage the responsibilities of their Trust.
  • When the Trustor(s) or Settlor(s) -[the Trust creator(s)] wish to avoid potential or actual family member conflicts.
  • When your loved one is no longer able to care for themselves, either physically, mentally or both, and the assistance of a Conservator is needed.
  • If a nominated Successor Trustee in a Trust or a nominated Executor in a Will declines to or cannot fulfill the fiduciary responsibilities. Be aware that nominations are not set in stone: the nominated person must also accept the responsibilities before they are authorized to serve.
  • When the nominated Successor Trustee in a Trust or a nominated Executor in a Will or a nominated Conservator of the Person and/or Estate are unable to qualify or are prohibited from acting due to personal financial or legal reasons.
  • When family members argue with each other and disagree, sometimes without justification, and cannot agree on how to manage the assets or daily care of your loved one.

Is it safe to hire a private Professional Fiduciary? How do I know if he/she can be trusted?

Identify your Professional Fiduciary in the same way that you found your accountant, your attorney and your financial advisor. Ask for referrals from the other professionals involved with your estate planning. Verify licensing with the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Research the educational and professional support organizations in which your Professional Fiduciary is active. Always interview the Professional Fiduciary you are considering for this most important position. Never be afraid to advise the Professional Fiduciary that you are interviewing that you are interviewing others for the job. In all Court supervised cases including Conservatorships, Trusts and Decedent's Estates), the Court requires the Professional Fiduciary to be bonded.

Who Oversees the Professional Fiduciary?

All California Superior Courts review and make the ultimate decisions for all Conservatorship, Trust and Decedent's Estate cases that it supervises. A Court appointed Professional Fiduciary must file Care Management Plans, Status Reports, Annual or Biannual Accountings and Petitions for Approval of Fees, among other documents throughout the duration of the case.

Non-Court supervised cases such as private Trusts are governed by the Client's pertinent estate planning documents including their Trust, Will, AHCD, DPOA, etc. that prescribe the time and type of required accountings to be made to the Trustor(s)/Settlor(s), beneficiaries and other designated person(s) or entities.

Who pays for the services of a private Professional Fiduciary?

Whether employed as a Licensed Professional Fiduciary or as a nominated non-licensed fiduciary, fiduciary fees are usually paid from the Trust Estate in the case of a trust; from the Estate assets of a Decedent's Estate; or from the Conservatorship Estate, as the case may be.

What does it cost to hire a Profession Fiduciary?

Please refer to the "Fees" Tab, above.