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The importance of trustworthy fiduciaries

Ontario residents undertaking their estate planning would do well to make sure they appoint effective and trustworthy fiduciaries. In estate planning, a fiduciary is someone appointed to handle various aspects of a person's estate. A fiduciary might be a trustee, a lawyer or anyone else entrusted with the job of managing the person's affairs. While some people associate estate planning with leaving instructions about managing their assets after their death, estate planning also involves appointing people to manage one's medical and financial decisions if the person alive but incapable of making those decisions for himself or herself.

Selecting the right person for these positions is one of the most important aspects of estate planning. Sometimes, people simply default to choosing individuals such as the oldest child, but it is more important to select a person who is trustworthy and has the time and resources to cope with the responsibility.

A fiduciary should be someone who behaves with loyalty, avoids conflicts of interest and keeps careful records among other duties. They have the option of employing a lawyer or other professionals, and this may be a good idea if the estate is particularly complex. While courts understand that fiduciaries are usually not financial professionals, individuals who misappropriate assets may be required to pay them back plus interest. However, courts recognize the difference between deliberate misappropriation and a person whose inexperience might result in failing to maximize the value of certain assets.

Individuals who are putting together an estate plan may wish to consult a wills and estates lawyer to ensure that all the most important areas are covered and that documents are in order. A lawyer might also be helpful to individuals who are responsible for the administration of an estate plan for someone else.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Do You Trust Your Fiduciary?", Suzana Popvic-Montag and Ian M. Hull, July 22, 2014

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