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Our experience gives us a unique perspective on the challenges
associated with fiduciary accounting.

Frequently Asked

What is Fiduciary Accounting?

A fiduciary accounting is a comprehensive report of the activity within a trust, estate, or conservatorship that is prepared in accordance with the California Probate Code. A fiduciary accounting will provide a detailed narrative of the administration of a trust, estate, or conservatorship for a specific time period. A well-prepared fiduciary accounting will support the trustee, executor, or conservator with their reporting responsibilities and fiduciary duties.

What is the process? How do I get started?

Call us. The best way to get started is to schedule a short phone call or meeting to discuss your accounting needs. During this discussion, we will gather the basic information for the case, and seek to understand the assets to be included in the accounting.

Once the initial conversation has been conducted and we understand your accounting needs, we will draft an engagement letter for your review and signature. The engagement letter will be sent to you outlining the terms of service, fee deposit (if applicable), and our fee policy. We will also send you a list of initial documentation needed to get started.

Once we receive the signed engagement letter and initial information, we will start your fiduciary accounting.

What information and documentation do I need to provide to start an accounting?

Once we understand the assets to be included in the accounting, we will ask for the applicable documentation. It is important to note that every case is different and requires different supporting information. Some of the documents we may ask for are:

  • Bank statements
  • Brokerage statements
  • Final closing escrow statements
  • Property management statements
  • Check copies or check register information
  • Trust documents and/or list of beneficiaries
  • Inventory & Appraisal (for a Probate Estate or Conservatorship)
  • Prior accountings, if applicable

Please see the Getting Started Checklist under the Resources page.

How can I give you my documents?

You can provide the information to us in the easiest format for you. Our clients send us information in the US Mail, via email, or online through our document management system. We use SmartVault as our document repository. SmartVault allows for secure document storage and file sharing.

If you choose to upload the documents to us, we will send you a link to your own secure portal. You will be able to upload documents and view documents at any time. You will be able to access your files through our website. See the Client Login page, located under the “For Clients” tab above.

View SmartVault’s Getting Started Guide

If you provide information to us via US Mail or email, we will scan and upload the documents for storage so that you, or your attorney, will have access to the information electronically via a secure link we share with you.

How long do you keep my documents and accounting(s)?

FAS will keep a scanned copy of your documents on Smart Vault for 5 years. We will hold a hard copy of your accounting also for 5 years. After 5 years your files will be properly destroyed.

How long does an accounting take?

Depending upon the complexity of the case and the period to be included in the report, an accounting can be generated in two to eight weeks. In most cases, a draft accounting is delivered in two to four weeks. However, we have worked on litigation cases in which the accounting is prepared, updated, revised over a period of six months. The time required depends upon the availability of information, client responsiveness, and issues specific to the case. Once a draft has been completed, you and your attorney may require additional time to address any outstanding questions or issues before the accounting can be finalized.

If an accounting needs to be expedited – we may be able to prepare the accounting in 10 days or less. This requires review and approval by the Managing Principal or Senior Director and is subject to a 25% surcharge.

How much does an accounting cost?

The preparation of a fiduciary accounting is a process.  Unlike preparing a tax return, a fiduciary accounting is a detailed documentation of trust or estate activities, often resulting in a conversation about the presentation and details of your specific case.  As such, time will be required to gather and prepare the information, then reconcile and draft schedules.  Prior to finalizing the accounting, we may have questions or request additional information.  After your review, the accounting will be sent to your attorney for comments.

We bill by the hour, so the time required directly translates to the overall cost of the project. The billable hours depend upon five factors:

1) the number of years to be included in the accounting,
2) the number of accounts (bank/brokerage),
3) the amount of activity or number transactions in each account,
4) the complexity of the assets (such as property management activity, business partnerships), and
5) the completeness and availability of information needed to prepare the accounting.

While we do our best to understand the scope of the accounting upfront, it is impossible to provide an accurate estimate based upon the initial interview.  The estimated time involved can only be estimated once we have received, reviewed, and completed the initial step in the accounting process.

How quickly can FAS begin my accounting?

We can start as soon as we have the signed engagement letter, fee deposit, and the initial documentation needed to prepare the accounting.

Why do I need an attorney?

We require all of our clients to have counsel. We are not attorneys and we cannot give legal advice. Your attorney will review the accounting(s) and prepare the necessary filings for the court and/or notice to the beneficiaries.

Will you prepare an informal accounting?

FAS will prepare an accounting that is in accordance with the California Probate Code (Prob C §§1060-1064), which is the format required for the court. Informal accountings vary in format and are generally not accepted by the court. Our accountings are done in the standard court-approved format and are therefore ready to go to court, if needed. The standard accounting will protect a trustee, executor, or conservator – saving you time and money in the long run.

Can you also prepare my tax return(s)?

We are not CPAs and do not prepare tax returns. However, we work closely with our clients and their tax preparers as the fiduciary accounting may assist with the tax return preparation. We are happy to refer you to a CPA for tax questions and preparation of tax returns.

Help! I am newly appointed Trustee. What do I need to know?

Call us! We will walk you through the accounting process and give you some helpful hints on how to manage and collect information to make your fiduciary accounting easy and quick. We are here to help you.