Many of us mistakenly believe the term “fiduciary” only pertains to certain financial advisors, but this misconception could lead to grave legal consequences because the term describes a number of important roles in which an individual (or corporation) has powers and duties pertaining to the property — and even the person — of another.
A definition of “fiduciary” includes those who administer another’s property such as trustees, personal representatives of an estate (executors and administrators), guardians, conservators, partners, agents and attorneys-in-fact, corporate officers, or “any other person, trust or estate” serving in a fiduciary capacity. See Uniform Fiduciaries Act (N.J.S.A. 3B:14-53(b). A fiduciary is held to a high legal standard in that he or she must put the interests of the “other” before his or her own. Breaching these duties subjects a fiduciary to civil and even criminal claims, depending upon the severity of the acts and/or omissions.
A prudent course of action prior to accepting a fiduciary position may be to seek legal counsel, with the watch-word being “prior”. However, prudence also suggests seeking legal counsel is advisable even after accepting such an appointment, so that you can be sure you are meeting your duties and obligations.