Fiduciaries are individuals who are held to a higher standard of legal accountability than others with whom folks may enter into agreements. The high standard is attributed to fiduciaries because usually they’re responsible for making very important decisions or taking critical actions on behalf of others.
In Estate Planning and Estate Administration, professional fiduciaries help families and individuals create and implement plans that will protect their interests. Professional fiduciaries include bankers, lawyers, financial advisors, doctors, and accountants. So, the interests these important folks protect involve money, one’s life, or confidential information about the same.
The information you share with professional fiduciaries should be considered and treated as trusted confidential information, to be shared with only those individuals you expressly authorize to receive the information. If that trust is not respected, i.e., breached, because fiduciaries are held to a higher standard of accountability, the professional usually can be hauled into court.
The down n dirty scoop on fiduciaries can start with Jennifer’s story*:
Jennifer was visiting her grandmother when she learned that her parents were involved in a horrible car accident. Jennifer flew back home immediately, heading to the hospital directly from the airport.
At the hospital, she was informed by one doctor that both parents were placed in a medically-induced coma. Additionally, her brother, Alex, who had been estranged from the family for 10 years was standing in the ER speaking with another doctor. It was clear to Jennifer that the doctor had presumed Alex had authority to make decisions for her parents and was providing Alex with information about her parents health.
When Jen asked the doctor why he was sharing information with her brother, the doctor informed her that the nature of the situation required the medical staff to engage with the next of kin to determine and obtain permission for urgent care and treatment.
Yet, was that legally the case? Jennifer’s parents had healthcare powers of attorney on file with their preferred hospital. However…