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Zachary Young is a private professional fiduciary with CMY Fiduciary Services in Sacramento.  His mother, Carolyn M. Young, began work as a fiduciary in 1986.  Zach received his bachelor’s degree in business and communications at Sacramento State University.  Zach joined his mother and sister, Lindsay Bowman, in the fiduciary business.  In 2012, he received his fiduciary license from California’s Professional Fiduciaries Bureau.

As he looks forward to continuing to help families with trusts, probate administrations, and conservatorships, Zach shared his thoughts with Trust on Trial.

What led you to join the family fiduciary business?

I always wanted to be a part of the business.  Carolyn, however, wanted me to have experience working elsewhere before joining the family business.  In July 2008, when my job at the Department of Food and Agriculture was cut due to budget issues, Carolyn asked me if I would answer phones.  I was hooked within the first month.

Growing up in Sacramento, my mom approached parenting in the same ways that she approaches work.  Honesty, integrity and putting others before herself.  As a result, beginning work in the industry came somewhat naturally because the skills needed are the same principles I’ve had instilled in me my entire life.  Over a decade later, I am experienced with the principles and practices of working as a fiduciary so I can size up situations and serve people.

What do you do in a typical workday?

In my role, there is no such thing as a “typical workday” just like there is no “typical client.”  On a quiet day, I will review accountings relating to trusts, probates and/or conservatorships.  I also check and update client files, and travel to meet with and check in on clients across the Sacramento region.

On a busy day, we may have to adjust our focus to something more urgent.  Recently, our office had to evacuate conservatees and beneficiaries from fire risk areas.

Although it can be unpredictable at times, I enjoy the resulting versatility in my schedule.  I like that no two days are the same and that there are many opportunities to learn.

How has COVID-19 changed your work since March 2020?

Most drastically, COVID-19 has changed many of the visitation practices for clients receiving care in facilities or at their homes.  As conservator or trustee for these individuals, whose health may be fragile, we have an obligation to minimize their risk of exposure while also balancing their overall wellbeing.  We also need to look out for their privacy interests.  It’s not always an easy balance to achieve.

On top of the above changes, our entire team has had to pivot our working style.  Similar to other industries, we have incorporated remote work while adhering to ongoing (and evolving) CDC guidelines.

How can fiduciaries help avoid or reduce family conflict over assets?

A fiduciary is defined by the legal and ethical requirement to put clients’ best interests ahead of their own.  A frequent reason we are involved is because family members may disagree about what is in the best interest of an elder.  This disagreement can result in major conflict.

We can understand how some family members may cause conflict but providing trust and security is one of our main goals.  As such, managing client expectations is critical.  Events surrounding the death or incapacity of a loved one are emotionally charged – even families that get along very well can experience conflict.  Because of this, transparency is key.

Family meetings can be one of the most effective ways to prevent conflict among family members. Consider gathering clients to explain decisions and give them an opportunity to ask questions about your plan.  Engaging clients and their loved ones throughout the process is a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

I also think flexibility is very important.  Life changes, and estate plans may need to change with it.  Upon any major life event – a death, a birth, a marriage, a divorce, a relocation – I make sure to consider how these changes may have impacted plans.  At a minimum, I recommend reviewing plans every five years. Regular review of your estate plan will maximize the benefit and minimize the conflict.

What does a conservator of a person do, and how do you approach that role?

A conservator of the estate manages a person’s financial resources while a conservator of the person attends to their personal living situation.  The person subject to a conservatorship is called the conservatee.  Sometimes, when a probate judge finds it appropriate after considering the evidence, I serve both as a conservator of the estate and the person.

As a conservator of the person, I check that the conservatee has proper food, clothing, shelter, and health care.  I believe in keeping the conservatee in the least restrictive living situation that keeps them safe and protected from potential predators.  Each situation is unique.  Many conservatees remain in their homes yet others may need temporary or long term placements in facilities where they can get the care they need.  I take into consideration the conservatee’s financial situation to ensure that they can afford a particular living arrangement.

We visit the conservatee and check in with family members, medical providers and caregiving staff to consider and make adjustments.  We also provide reports to the probate court, which oversees the conservatorship as long as it continues.

Can you share a highlight or two from your fiduciary work?

I like getting to know clients and being of service to them as time goes by.  Seven years ago I met a client who chose to name me as a successor trustee and agent under power of attorney.  When she had to go to the doctor last week, she would only allow me to drive her to the appointment.  It feels good to know that I can help her, that she trusts me, and that the relationship we developed provides comfort and benefits her future health.

And here’s a shiny story.  I served as trustee of a trust that had several hundred thousand dollars of personal property, including over 65 guns, gold bullion, and large bags of coins.  In inventorying the coins I noticed that they were all quarters that were from the early 1900s.  I found out that they were 90% silver and were worth much more than the $0.25 that they appeared to be.  I received a free education in silver in that matter.