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What Is a Fiduciary and What Are Its Obligations?
When you need someone else to care for money or property on your behalf, that person (or organization) is called a fiduciary. A fiduciary is a person or entity entrusted with the power to act for someone else, and this power comes with the legal obligation to act for the benefit of that other person.
Many types of positions involve being a fiduciary, including that of broker, trustee, agent under a power of attorney, guardian, executor, and representative payee. An individual becomes a fiduciary by entering into an agreement to do so or by being appointed by a court or by a legal document.
Being a fiduciary calls for the highest standard of care under the law. For example, a trustee must pay even more attention to the trust investments and disbursements than for his or her own accounts. No matter what their role is or how they are appointed, all fiduciaries owe four special duties to the people for whom they are managing money or resources. A fiduciary’s duties are:
- to act only in the interest of the person they are helping;
- to manage that person's money or property carefully;
- to keep that person's money and property separate from their own; and
- to keep good records and report them as required. Any agent appointed by a court or government agency, for example, must report regularly to that court or agency.
Remember, your fiduciary exists to protect you and your interests. If your fiduciary fails to perform any of those four duties or generally mismanages your money or affairs, you can take legal action. The fiduciary will probably be required to compensate you for any loss you suffered because of their mismanagement.