What’s the Difference Between a Fiduciary and a Trustee?

Fiduciary and a Trustee

Are you wondering what the difference is between a fiduciary and a trustee? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve answered some frequently asked questions and clarified the role of each in this article. But there are some important differences as well. Listed below are the main differences between a fiduciary and a trustee. Let’s take a closer look. Which one is right for you?


In an estate plan, a trust may be an effective way to manage your estate. In this case, a trustee holds the legal title of the property while the beneficiary does not. Trustees are bound by equity to suppress their own interests in the trust, while beneficiaries get to use the property without being technically owners. In some circumstances, a fiduciary will act as the beneficiary’s representative in a trust.

As a fiduciary, you are responsible for selecting appropriate asset classes and investing them according to your investment policy statement. The key to success in this role is to know the basics of investment management, including diversification, liquidity, risk/return characteristics, and a clear process for selecting the investments. Most fiduciaries use modern portfolio theory to construct an investment portfolio that targets a desired risk/return profile. You should formalize these steps by creating an investment policy statement. This will provide the detail needed to implement a particular investment strategy.

Another remedy is an account of profits. If a senior employee took advantage of his fiduciary role, he or she may be entitled to an account of profits, since this would not have been possible without the privileges of the position. If, on the other hand, a fiduciary has a disproportionately large profit, a plaintiff can still seek compensation for his or her loss. A fiduciary can also be awarded compensation for the time and effort spent making a profit.

In the financial services industry, a fiduciary has a duty to act in the best interest of others. A trustee is responsible for managing a trust and its assets. Trustees cannot use trust assets for their own benefit. However, fiduciaries have the same duty to protect the interests of the beneficiaries. If you work in an industry where the interests of one principal are in conflict with each other, a fiduciary is required to consider both of these situations and take care to meet them.

The role of a fiduciary varies from one profession to another. Generally, corporate fiduciaries are compensated directly from the trust, and the attorney’s compensation is usually reduced. Those who are tasked with the management of complex assets may receive increased compensation for extraordinary trustee services. So, a fiduciary should understand how a trust works and how it benefits both parties.


One recent question I was asked by a plan sponsor was “What’s the difference between a Fiduciary and a Trustees?” Basically, a Fiduciary is someone who acts on behalf of the plan’s owner. Often, these individuals are named in the plan’s investment policy statement or Adoption Agreement. Trustees have the same duties as trustees but can make different decisions.

As an example, consider a situation where X and Y have fiduciary duties to each other, but X and Y sign a separate contract, putting X’s personal interest above the interests of the duo. Consequently, X’s breach of fiduciary duty will be found by the court, and it will hold the money and contract in a constructive trust on behalf of the duo.

Generally speaking, the fiduciary is responsible for investing the assets in a way that meets the needs of the beneficiaries. However, a trustee will have to handle various tasks, including processing transactions, preparing income tax returns, and generating statements. Additionally, they must track principal and income. Trustees are often family members or close friends who understand their philosophies and who would want to serve as a trustee for free.

While the role of a fiduciary is largely unspecified in everyday life, the duties of a trustee are ethical and fundamental. The fiduciary must always act in the beneficiary’s best interests. The prudent person standard of care, based on an 1830 court ruling, requires a trustee to act in the beneficiary’s best interest. Because of this, strict care must be taken to prevent conflicts of interest.

The fiduciary trustee is responsible for managing the assets under a trust. Generally, the Trustee has more responsibility for managing assets for minor beneficiaries than for a larger group of beneficiaries. The Fiduciary is also responsible for regular accounting procedures, but can delegate some responsibilities to other people. Trustees can also consult with attorneys and financial advisors for help managing trust assets. In addition to fiduciaries, individuals can take on the role of a trustee when acting on behalf of someone else.


The difference between an agent and a trustee is significant for estate planning purposes. The former owes legal duties to the principal while the latter has legal ownership but does not have the same fiduciary obligations. A fiduciary is legally responsible for an estate and must act in the beneficiary’s best interests. The latter must be very careful when selecting a trustee, as a breach of fiduciary duties can have severe consequences for both the estate and the beneficiary.

Among other examples, an agent can have a duty of loyalty to the principal, and vice versa. The latter is more likely to receive payment on behalf of the principal. However, if a fiduciary is unable to fulfill their fiduciary duty, the principal could claim compensation. While accounts of profits may be difficult to establish, they can be awarded in an equitable action. DA De Mott, JH Langbein, and MM Johnson have written cases that have challenged the duty of loyalty in trust law.

Another difference between a trustee and an agent is the scope of the fiduciary duties owed by the agent and principal. An agent can fulfill fiduciary duties in several contexts, including a contract or tort. In workers’ compensation law, the principal can be an agent. Agents are also bound by the law of agency, which requires them to act in the best interest of the principal. But there are important differences between the duties of an agent and a trustee.

While trustees are responsible for a trust, agents can act on behalf of the principal. An agent can also act as the representative of non-trust assets. An agent must submit a power of attorney document and a trustee affidavit. A trustee can be an attorney or accountant. However, it is possible for an agent to be the same person as the principal. Therefore, a trustee can be the same person as the principal.

In addition to the legal differences, agents can also perform fiduciary duties. Agents are generally more flexible than trustees. For example, they are often hired to provide certain services, while trustees are generally required to act in the best interests of their clients. The responsibility for a trustee is to protect the interests of the beneficiaries of a trust. A trustee has fiduciary duties, but an agent can fulfill a fiduciary duty as well.

Registered investment advisor

A significant difference between a fiduciary and a registered investment advisor lies in the duty of loyalty and care that RIAs must show their clients. While a broker-dealer is only responsible for maintaining the liquidity of the capital markets, an RIA has a fiduciary standard of care. Registered investment advisors are held to the highest level of legal and ethical standards. Their duties, as a fiduciary, include putting the needs of their investment clients above their own.

While registered investment advisors receive fees for their services, brokers and other financial professionals receive commissions from the sales they make for their clients. The difference is essentially the same; the registered investment advisor is required to act in their clients’ best interest. A broker-dealer, however, is not required to be a fiduciary, and must make appropriate recommendations for their clients’ best interests. Despite this, most consumers are unaware of the difference and assume that both are the same.

RIAs are required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 sets down the rules governing investment advisers. RIAs must register and be licensed by the SEC, although there are exemptions for smaller firms. An RIA must also update the information it has on file with the SEC each year. The SEC has specific requirements for RIAs, including the duty of loyalty.

RIAs are subject to examination by SEC staff. These examinations, which are designed to protect investors, assess whether registered firms are complying with the law, following its regulations, and maintaining an appropriate compliance program. RIAs must provide examiners with access to their advisory records, although certain documents may be protected by attorney-client privilege. This is why many advisers store a backup of their records.

RIAs must follow the fiduciary standard, which requires them to act in the client’s best interest at all times. However, not all RIAs are fully fiduciary. Many of them are dual-registered, which means that they are registered as a broker and an RIA. In these cases, the RIA must disclose all of their compensation and legal actions to their clients.