Following are some questions which are commonly asked when a referral is made to our firm. The answers are general; we welcome your specific questions about how we would handle the case being referred.
What is your asset or income limit for accepting a case?
We have no formal asset or income limits. However, since we are a private firm, and continue to do a substantial amount of pro bono work, we assess the anticipated needs and challenges of each case in order to determine ability to afford private services and whether we are the most appropriate fiduciary choice. If we are not able to accept the referral we can generally suggest alternatives.
What are your fees?
Effective January 1, 2022, our rate for professional fiduciary services for conservatorships, guardianships and special needs trusts is $ 175 per hour. Our rate for financial transactions is $ 115 per hour. In decedent estates, we receive a statutory fee and are entitled to request extraordinary compensation in limited situations. We are compensated as trustees according to the terms of the trust or on a case-specific basis.
How do you decide whether or not to accept a referral?
Many factors enter into the decision to accept the responsibility and liability of management of a fiduciary case. We evaluate the case facts as presented and consider them in light of our firm’s experience, skills, and current caseload. We interview the referring party and other involved persons to complete our analysis of the case and come to a decision as to whether or not to accept it.
How do you interact with family members, heirs and beneficiaries?
We understand that, while we have been given legal authority, we are newcomers to the family situation. We request and appreciate family help in providing background and current relevant case information. We encourage the continuing beneficial involvement of family members. Our goal is always to preserve and if possible enhance existing positive relationships.
Can the “next of kin”, or the most-involved family members, still make decisions when you are involved?
The appointment of a fiduciary, by definition, removes some or all decision-making authority from persons who previously held it. In some instances, family members or friends had previously exercised decision authority, with or without legal appointment. We cannot delegate any decision-making authority which we have been given by the Court or under terms of a Trust. In considering our decisions, we can and do work with family members for the benefit of the protected person.
How do you ensure personal and medical privacy?
Our standard of personal and medical privacy for protected persons is the same as we believe anyone would have for himself or herself. We work in compliance with the privacy terms of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We balance these requirements with responsible case management and appropriate communication with family members on a “need to know” basis.
How do you ensure privacy of Wills, Trusts and other documents?
Unless it is necessary to bring an estate-related matter before the Court, and the revelation of all or some elements of a Will is required, we do not disclose or discuss the terms of a Will during the lifetime of the testator. We maintain the confidentiality of Trusts and other documents as required and as advised by our counsel. We comply with all statutory requirements to account to trust beneficiaries.
What is your approach to working with families in conflict?
Often our referrals involve family conflicts, some of which are long-standing and intense. We treat all family members with respect and make the initial assumption that, no matter how they may differ among themselves, they do agree on the general concept of protecting their relative. As the case progresses, we respond as appropriate to actions, both positive and negative, by family members.
What is your geographical service area?
We serve Los Angeles County and will consider referrals from directly adjacent counties.
Can you recover assets that have been improperly taken by family members, prior fiduciaries or others before your appointment?
Often our appointment is a direct result of financial mismanagement by others. Family members or beneficiaries often request corrective actions for events or actions dating significantly back in time. For example, in conflicted families there are often instances of contention as to whether a past transfer of assets represented a loan versus a gift. Our ability to recover assets is dependent on factors such as the scope of authority given to us by the Court or by statute, the type of known or alleged mismanagement, the current status of the assets, the degree of objective evidence available and a realistic calculation of the cost-effectiveness of an attempt to recover. The Court finds it inappropriate for fiduciaries to request fees or incur attorney fees to obtain a hollow judgment that cannot be recovered