I’m in my mid-thirties, something that is rare in the Professional Fiduciary community. We have a running joke in our profession that the typical Fiduciary is a middle-aged to semi-retired woman, on her second career. While that’s not entirely true, it is true that many Fiduciaries are almost as old as the clients they serve and nearing retirement, themselves.
Why are there so few young Fiduciaries in this profession, you may ask? Well, I can only speculate and say based off my observations, but I’d venture to say, in general, that young people simply don’t know about the profession. The Professional Fiduciary business community is very small. The Professional Fiduciaries Bureau of California has issued less than 1,500 licenses since its inception. That’s for the entire state of California! Contrast that to the hundreds of thousands of real estate, accountancy, attorney or other professional licenses issued by the state and you can see just how small our community is.
Another reason for the lack of younger Fiduciaries may be that, generally, young people just aren’t as qualified to serve as Fiduciaries. I don’t know of a single Fiduciary that graduated college and immediately obtained their Fiduciary license. This is because they simply don’t have the prerequisite knowledge and work experience needed to navigate the wide ranging and complex areas of financial and health care management. As Fiduciaries, we wear many hats and must be proficient in or possess a basic understanding of many fields, such as financial management, investing, estate planning, legal terminology, trust and estate administration, local court rules, the probate code, taxation, understanding fiduciary duty and liability, real estate transactions and tenancy laws, record keeping, accounting and bookkeeping, ethics, public benefits, health care management, interacting with difficult personalities, understanding mental health issues and incapacity and so, so much more.
This profession requires such a diverse skill set to really excel. This is why many people become Fiduciaries as a second career and through their association with other Professional Fiduciaries. After they’ve acquired a certain amount of life experience, knowledge and mastery of their own career field, they venture into being a Fiduciary later on in life. Many other lay people experience the need for a Professional Fiduciary because a loved one has passed away and they are named as Trustee or Executor in their family member’s estate plan. Through this “trial by fire,” they gain first hand experience of the profession and move onto becoming Fiduciaries themselves. How ever one eventually becomes a Fiduciary, the common theme among them, is that they all want to help people. With that being said, because Fiduciary work is often a second career for many older people, their previous career experience may or may not alway translate into the necessary skills for success.
I remember, when I first became licensed, and had a meeting with a potential client of a multi-million dollar estate. He was actively seeking a young Fiduciary to name in his estate plan but during the meeting he questioned whether he could trust a 30-something year old to manage his life’s work. This resonated with me and, frankly, I’m not sure I would trust the average 20 or 30 year old with my estate either! Nonetheless, I've had an overwhelmingly positive response from people who value my know-how more than my age. Since then I’ve been appointed as Trustee, Conservator and Administrator of many different types of estates ranging from $300,000 to several million dollars. Though I’m younger, I’ve been working in the trusts and estates legal field since I was 19 years old and this experience has created a sound bedrock of knowledge and has contributed to my success as a Fiduciary.
I receive a lot of referrals for new matters due to my younger age, and I would like to think, also, because of the reputation I’ve built up in the Fiduciary and Legal communities for being capable and knowledgeable in Trust and Estates administration. Many people seek out and, likewise, attorneys recommend a younger Fiduciary to be named in their client’s estate plan because it just make sense. Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to pass away (or decline health-wise) before someone that is younger than yourself. Naming a Fiduciary that is similarly aged to yourself may result in that Fiduciary retiring or passing away first. This can result in the Court becoming involved to appoint a Fiduciary to handle your affairs because there is a vacancy in that position. One major goal of a good estate plan is to avoid court involvement altogether. So be sure to interview and really consider all aspects of the Fiduciary’s experience and longevity before you decide to name him or her in your estate plan. If you’re seeking a Fiduciary to name in your estate plan, please contact me to set up a meeting!
I am not a lawyer and the information contained in this article should not be construed as legal advice.
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Jennifer Feehan is a California Licensed Professional Fiduciary, serving all of San Diego County