Sunday, November 4, 2001

For the fiduciarily impaired

One of the first answers in the locally written book "Executor & Trustee Survival Guide" explains that "A fiduciary relationship is one of trust. A fiduciary oversees, protects and manages property for the benefit of others."

The book was written by certified financial planner and certified financial advisor Douglas Wilson for several reasons, and he's passionate about all of them.

"One of the things that has become very obvious over the years is that people have no idea where to start when they're named executor or trustee (of an estate)," he said.

Some seek legal counsel, but others hoping to avoid incurring further expense "go charging off on their own, and often make a mess of things.

"What I attempted to do here is bring the stuff together in one resource to show what the issues are," Wilson said.

Family harmony is another reason he wrote the book. In his 40-year career, he's "seen families torn apart where a brother or sister or friend handling the estate didn't do a good job, resulting in lawsuits. From a family point of view and a relationship point of view, it can be a real problem."

Another pitfall unbeknownst to many is that people can be held personally liable for errors, even if unintentional.

"Who wants to get sued, especially if they didn't want the job in the first place?" he said. "Before you step up to the plate, find out what's going on."

The 383-page book is broken into sections, has 21 chapters and lists subtopics in the table of contents for easy reference. It also has a glossary and index, and one needn't have a JD, MBA or be a CPA to understand the text.

Sections include "To Serve or Not To Serve," "Settling an Estate," "Managing Trusts" and "Getting Help," for those situations where professional help is clearly needed.

"I think the real crux of the problem is that people get into a situation and don't seek professional help, and don't even know what questions to ask. They don't know what the issues are and what they need to do to comply with the law."

The guide may also help "make sure they get what they're entitled to," he said.

By day Wilson is the senior vice president of the Trust and Investments Division at First Hawaiian Bank.

The book was written with the bank's blessing, although it is not a commercial vehicle for the institution, nor is it Hawaii-specific. Trust law is fairly universal, Wilson said, as is IRS code.

He's received good feedback from other professional financial planners, accountants and insurance people, he said.

"They're finding it helpful for themselves and their clientele," he said.

The $29.95 book is available in bookstores or can be ordered online at

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached

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