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Professional Fiduciary Services at Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

Professional Fiduciary Services at Connelly Law - More Than Managing Money

By Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

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Attorney RJ Connelly III

"On multiple occasions, I have been asked to explain what a professional fiduciary is and what professional fiduciary services are offered at our firm," stated professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connely III. "As a Professional Fiduciary, one must possess unique skills and qualities beyond just being a profession. I see it as a calling. We are not just decision-makers, business managers, or guardians but are also bound by a relationship of trust, care, and concern. Our primary aim is to provide compassionate care and support, promote our clients' emotional and mental well-being, and alleviate stress due to changing circumstances or unforeseen events. We are here to help each client and their family lead a fulfilling life, and we take this responsibility with the utmost sincerity."

Professional Fiduciaries provide services to seniors, children, and individuals with physical or mental disabilities. In many cases, these individuals may not have a family member who can manage their finances and/or healthcare needs before or after they pass away. In some cases, they may also lack the knowledge or ability to manage their affairs. Professional Fiduciaries are responsible for managing Special Needs Trusts for individuals with developmental and mental disabilities, and they may also act as guardians for children and seniors. When there are potentially difficult family dynamics, fiduciaries also serve as independent third parties to ensure the safety of their clients and protect their assets.

The Professional Fiduciary Role

In general, the roles of Professional Fiduciaries can vary and include various responsibilities, which include;

Acting as a Trustee

This typically refers to a person or entity appointed to manage and oversee assets or funds on behalf of another person or organization. This role often involves a high level of responsibility and fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries or stakeholders involved. Trustees may be appointed by legal documents such as wills or trusts, or by court order in some instances. In addition to managing assets, a trustee may have various other duties, such as making distributions, filing tax returns, and communicating with beneficiaries.

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Assisting seniors in managing finances

Following a Strict Code of Ethics

Professional fiduciaries follow a strict code of ethics that governs their conduct towards clients and the management of their assets. This code of ethics ensures they maintain the highest integrity, competence, and professionalism standards in all dealings. It requires that the fiduciary act in the client's best interests, avoid conflicts of interest, maintain confidentiality, and fully disclose all material facts. As a fiduciary, the individual holds a position of trust and responsibility, and their actions must always reflect the highest level of ethical behavior.

Acting as an Estate Executor

When someone passes away, they may designate someone to act as an estate executor. The estate executor is responsible for managing the deceased's assets, paying any outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the instructions in the will. The process of acting as an estate executor can be complex and time-consuming, as it involves legal and financial responsibilities. The executor must act with integrity, transparency, and fairness to ensure that the deceased's wishes are carried out correctly.

Daily Bill Paying and Money Management

Professional fiduciaries help develop a plan to manage an individual's money more efficiently and ensure timely payments of their bills. From creating budgets to tracking expenses, fiduciaries can guide their clients through the process of organizing their finances and help them meet their financial obligations.

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Make informed healthcare decisions as needed

Acting as a Healthcare Agent

Professional fiduciaries have knowledge of clients' medical history, current health status, and personal beliefs and make informed decisions about their care. When possible, they seek to involve clients in decision-making and consider their values and goals when determining the best course of action. This ensures clients receive safe, effective, personalized care that aligns with their needs and preferences. This may also include assisting with obtaining healthcare insurance and providing Medicaid planning or Medicaid crisis planning services.

Coordinating Long Term Care

This is the process of organizing and managing ongoing medical or personal assistance for individuals with chronic or long-lasting conditions. This may involve collaborating with healthcare providers, arranging for specialized services, creating a care plan that meets the patient's unique needs, and ensuring that all aspects of the care are appropriately monitored and adjusted as needed. Effective long-term care coordination is essential to ensure that individuals receive the support they need to maintain their health, independence, and quality of life over an extended period.

Providing Support When Circumstances Change

Professional fiduciaries provide unwavering support throughout any changing circumstances a client may encounter. Whether it be a significant shift in their personal life, a new challenge at work, or an unexpected turn of events, fiduciaries offer guidance, assistance, and a listening ear.

Acting as a Conservator for Those Mentally or Physically Incapacitated

A conservator is a person or an organization appointed by a court to manage the affairs of someone mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to manage their affairs. A conservator could care for the incapacitated person's finances, property, and other legal matters. The conservator's primary responsibility is to act in the incapacitated person's best interests and ensure their well-being is not compromised. The conservator is legally required to report to the court on a regular basis and obtain court approval for significant decisions.

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Managing Special Needs Trusts

Respecting Clients Privacy

Maintaining clients' privacy and adhering to appropriate standards while handling their information is essential. This includes taking necessary measures to protect their personal data from unauthorized access, ensuring that all communication regarding their information is secure, and refraining from disclosing any details about them without their explicit consent. It is equally important to respect their rights and dignity as individuals and maintain a professional and ethical approach in all client interactions.

Communicating with Family and Loved Ones

Maintaining open communication channels with family members and loved ones is crucial to staying connected and building solid relationships. Whether it's a quick check-in to say hello, a heartfelt conversation to share news or feelings, or a collaborative effort to plan an update on services, fiduciaries take the time to reach out and connect with those who matter most to the client to foster deeper connections and build a sense of belonging and support.

Reporting to the Court

Fiduciaries may be required to provide relevant financial information to the court as and when required in relation to the client's case. Fiduciaries maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all financial transactions and present them clearly and concisely to avoid confusion or misunderstandings.

Why Hire a Professional Fiduciary

"There are numerous advantages to hiring a Professional Fiduciary," stated Attorney Connelly. "A Professional Fiduciary has the expertise and resources to help manage an estate, financial affairs, and a special needs trust. Individuals and families can have peace of mind knowing that matters are handled skillfully and ethically. Hiring a Professional Fiduciary can also help minimize family disputes and maintain healthy relationships among siblings and relatives."

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Assist families in managing finances

There are various scenarios where someone may choose to hire a Professional Fiduciary. When doing advanced estate planning, a person with total mental capacity may designate a private fiduciary to oversee healthcare or manage finances in the event of future incapacity. This may include naming the fiduciary as POA (power of attorney) for finance, the power of attorney for an Advanced Healthcare Directive, and being named in trusts as the successor trustee who steps in after the person passes away.

"Professional Fiduciaries can also serve as court-appointed probate administrators when no estate planning has been done or when the decedent’s family members are out of the state or country," said Attorney Connelly. "In some cases, elderly or disabled individuals may want to appoint a neutral person to manage their healthcare and/or finances. They can name a Professional Fiduciary in their Power of Attorney documents in these situations. If a senior has not named an agent to act on their behalf before becoming incapacitated, or if an already appointed agent is misusing their position, guardianship (also known as conservatorship) proceedings can be initiated to protect and assist the elder or disabled person."

"In other situations where an individual with significant financial resources is susceptible to 'undue influence,' a Professional Fiduciary may be necessary," Attorney Connelly pointed out. "This is because family members or an appointed agent may abuse or exploit their access to the person's finances. In such cases, the impartiality of a Professional Fiduciary is needed to make decisions on the individual's behalf."

A Final Word

"At Connelly Law, we provide Professional Fiduciary services that are not only cost-efficient but are also tailored to address a client's specific legal and financial concerns," said Attorney Connelly. "With our team of experienced and knowledgeable fiduciary professionals, you can trust that your needs will always be prioritized and attended to with the utmost care and support. We take pride in upholding our duties of loyalty and care. Our firm has earned a reputation of respect, professionalism, and expertise in the legal community in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, which we apply to the various Professional Fiduciary roles we undertake."

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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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