Santa Barbara Fiduciary Celebrates 11 Years in Business

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   February 13, 2020
Lindsay Leonard is the owner of Santa Barbara Fiduciary, which celebrated 11 years in business last month

Santa Barbara Fiduciary ­– which is based in Montecito ­– recently marked 11 years in business. Owner Lindsay Leonard says the idea for starting the company arose from her experience helping her grandmother navigate Alzheimer’s; Leonard says she struggled to meet the demands of rapid changes in her grandmother’s health and needs, and wanted to help others facing similar challenges.

Leonard, who graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara where she earned a degree in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, has work experience in research and development of next generation antibody therapeutics and of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer; she also worked in two well-known asset management firms in the Santa Barbara area as a junior analyst before starting her own company. She has been a licensed California Professional Fiduciary since 2010 and has certifications in Professional Fiduciary Management for Conservators and Trustees. She is a National Certified Guardian, a Registered Trust & Estate Practitioner (TEP), and member of the Santa Barbara Estate Planning Council.

Leonard recently sat down with us to answer some questions about her fiduciary business:

Q. What is a private professional fiduciary?

A. Legally, a fiduciary relationship is “any relation existing between parties to a transaction wherein one of the parties is in duty bound to act with the utmost good faith for the benefit of the other party.” I serve in legal positions of trust, such as trustee, power of attorney, personal representative, executor, and health care agent, as well as to assist those already serving in those positions. My company manages matters for clients including daily care, housing and medical needs, and also offers financial management services ranging from basic bill paying to estate and investment oversight. We are trustworthy advocates for the elderly and individuals in need, we protect their wishes and best interests, and we understand the mechanics of trust and estate administration so we are able to work quickly and efficiently through the processes needed to be accomplished.

A private professional fiduciary can be appointed as an alternative to a family member or bank; a professional fiduciary can be a wise alternative solution to naming family members as successor agents in estate planning for a variety of smart reasons. For example, the role of successor trustee involves considerable time expended in preparation of financial analysis; shepherding of assets; searching for and tracking down lost information; tax reporting; traveling to financial, debt related, creditor and other business entities for research; evaluating, repairing and making decisions concerning real and personal property; determining status and then preparing an accounting to beneficiaries to provide status of the trust estate – this takes time and acumen that family members might not have or be willing to devote.

When children or siblings are appointed to bear the burden, subjective interpersonal relationships may get in the way of decision making that requires clear thinking and objectivity. Often the unresolved familial emotional issues (“Mom always loved you best”) and lingering grief issues interfere with proper, timely and necessary trust management.

Many times, the designees are not proximately located near the assets: this increases the difficulty of managing/maintaining them, dealing with agents and handling other trustee responsibilities. Unlike banks, financial advisors or corporate trustees (who profit from fee income derived from assets invested), private professional fiduciaries are completely independent, usually earn set hourly fees, and therefore are free from conflicts of interest. Essentially, a private professional fiduciary combines the advantages of a family member/friend with the advantages of a corporate trustee: you get the benefit of a personal relationship and the accountability of a bank (fiduciaries are in fact held to a higher standard).

What services do you provide?

Our services generally fall within four categories.

Fiduciary Services: We serve in fiduciary appointments, such as trustee, executor, durable power of attorney, and health care agent, to help preserve, grow and distribute our clients’ wealth the way they want – both during their lifetime and the lifetimes of those important to our clients. 

Administration Assistance: We assist executors, trustees, and guardians to administer estates and trusts in an organized, timely, tax-efficient manner, while seeking to minimize fiduciary stress and family conflict and helping to preserve positive personal and family legacies.

Daily Money Management Services: As personal financial matters become more complicated – finding time to focus on the daily tasks of money management becomes more difficult. Our daily money management services ensure nothing falls through the cracks including necessities like paying monthly bills, assisting with tax records, balancing checkbooks, decoding medical bills, and negotiating with creditors.

Successor Fiduciary Planning: We provide guidance to clients looking to appoint us to act on their behalf at some point in the future and help define goals, planning and processes to ensures wishes are understood and documented.

What motivated you to start Santa Barbara Fiduciary?

I sometimes refer to Santa Barbara Fiduciary as my grandmother’s parting gift to me, as it arose out of the challenges I faced when my grandmother (my rock, my mentor and my first best friend in an ocean of dysfunctional family relationships) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and began needing all sorts of assistance. While she was facing physical and mental declines, I was dealing with the grief of losing someone while they were alive. I also was burdened with the responsibility of evaluating and managing her finances, getting a crash course in legal challenges, and dealing with family issues. 

Once I contacted the gas company to find out her current balance, and in response to my effort to get them paid, they insisted on me having something called a “power of attorney” and refused to tell me what she owed! My grandmother also left notes around her home for my granddad, who had died more than 15 years before. As things got worse, she was adamantly opposed to help from any caregiving agencies.

I am the eldest of four, so the role of guiding and supporting others along their paths is natural to me. There was an unspoken bond/promise between me and my grandmother that I would be there for her in the end. Now I want to be there for other individuals and families facing similar journeys.

Are there other common pitfalls or scenarios that may trigger someone to seek the services of a private professional fiduciary?

Yes, when establishing trusts and other estate documents, frequently clients try to designate multiple children as agents, so as not to appear to favor one or another, but by designating co-trustees or co-agents under a power of attorney or health care directive to act together instead of consecutively, they generate opportunities for disagreement and impasse. It can be a source of friction and even litigation in conflicted families. At the very least, when the children are named jointly, it becomes cumbersome to get all signatures required for all actions to be taken. As well, though many family members and friends might waive fees for serving as trustee, most trusts provide for “reasonable compensation,” which creates concern to other remainder beneficiaries.

Fewer will have problems with employing the services of an independent, outside and objective third party – especially one identified as a private professional fiduciary.Also, in blended family situations, couples may want to consider having someone other than the surviving spouse serve as trustee, or having the surviving spouse serve with a co-trustee. Only rarely in friendly families might the trustee or a co-trustee who serves with a surviving spouse be a remainder beneficiary, because any funds distributed to the surviving spouse will reduce the remainder beneficiary’s ultimate distribution. Otherwise, a conflict of interest may arise, which has spawned considerable litigation in blended families. Appointing a private professional fiduciary instead will avoid this problem.

How do people find the right fiduciary for their situation?

Not all fiduciaries handle all matters. For example, some fiduciaries prefer trust administration over court appointed conservatorships and probate administration.  Some fiduciaries are more willing than others to get involved when family members are at odds with one another.

Experience, personality, reputation, gender, age, rates, and the manner in which charges for services are accrued; location, support staffing and availability are all factors that may be immensely relevant. A fiduciary generally will make himself or herself available to meet family members so the family can assess the fiduciary’s background and potential approach to a situation. For example, if the subject elder resides in an assisted care living facility in a nearby town, finding a fiduciary who knows the staff at the facility may be helpful.

Private professional fiduciaries practicing in the state of California are required to be licensed by the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau under the California Department of Consumer Affairs. While being licensed is a requirement, it may not determine whether a fiduciary is a good fit for your particular circumstances and family dynamics. It’s always a good idea that you meet with and interview three private professional fiduciaries to present a list of questions addressing your specific needs to ensure that you find the professional who best suits your individual situation.

I’ve been a licensed California Professional Fiduciary since 2010 and have certifications in Professional Fiduciary Management for Conservators and Trustees. I am a National Certified Guardian, a Registered Trust & Estate Practitioner (TEP), and member of the Santa Barbara Estate Planning Council. I earned certificates in Professional Fiduciary Management for Conservators and Trustees from Cal State Fullerton Extension. 

Once the best match is found, then relax! You’ll be in expert hands.

For more information about Santa Barbara Fiduciary, visit


You might also be interested in...