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By: Scott Grossman on June 17th, 2024

Understanding OLDCAR: A Guide to Fiduciary Duty

Introduction to Fiduciary Duty

In trust and probate law, fiduciary duty is a fundamental concept. It represents the highest standard of care and involves acting in the best interests of another party. Tasked with managing the deceased’s affairs, fiduciaries must adhere to their duties. This responsibility can be overwhelming, especially for grieving families. To help you navigate these duties, we will explore OLDCAR: obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accounting, and reasonable care. Realtors have used the concept of OLDCAR for quite some time to illustrate their fiduciary duties. This article will use OLDCAR to help you remember your duties as a trustee or your rights as a beneficiary.

Understanding OLDCAR


Obedience means adhering strictly to the instructions and wishes outlined in a will or trust document. Fiduciaries must follow the directions provided by the decedent without deviation. For instance, if a trust document specifies that a specific asset must be given to a particular beneficiary, the fiduciary must comply without question.


Loyalty is about prioritizing the beneficiaries’ interests above all else. This duty requires fiduciaries to avoid conflicts of interest and act solely for the beneficiaries’ benefit. Imagine a trustee managing an estate; they must prioritize the beneficiaries’ needs and interests over their own. For more on trustee’s duty of loyalty, check out our article “Trustee Duties: Duties of Loyalty” for more information.


Disclosure involves providing complete and honest information to beneficiaries. Fiduciaries must keep beneficiaries informed about the estate’s status and any actions taken. Transparency is crucial here. For example, if a property is sold, the fiduciary must inform the beneficiaries about the sale price and how the proceeds will be distributed.


Confidentiality requires fiduciaries to protect sensitive information related to the estate or trust. They must not disclose personal or financial details without proper authorization. This duty ensures the privacy of the deceased and the beneficiaries. A breach of confidentiality can lead to significant trust issues and legal consequences.


Accounting is the duty to accurately record and report all financial transactions related to the estate or trust. Fiduciaries must provide clear and detailed accounts to beneficiaries, showing how assets and expenses are managed. This transparency builds trust and prevents disputes. Regular accounting updates are a cornerstone of good fiduciary practice. For more on trustee’s duty of accounting, check out our article “Trustee Duties: Are you entitled to an accounting as a Beneficiary? for more information. 

Reasonable Care

Reasonable care means acting with the same prudence and diligence as a cautious person would in similar circumstances. Fiduciaries must manage the estate or trust assets wisely, avoiding unnecessary risks. They should seek professional advice when needed to make informed decisions. This duty ensures the preservation and growth of the estate’s assets for the beneficiaries’ benefit.

The Role of a Fiduciary in Trust and Probate Law

Fiduciaries play a critical role in trust and probate law. They are entrusted with significant responsibilities that require adherence to OLDCAR principles. That ensures the fair and efficient administration of estates, respecting the decedent’s wishes and protecting the beneficiaries’ interests.

How OLDCAR Protects Beneficiaries

OLDCAR serves as an acronym for the framework of a fiduciary. These principles help inform you of your rights to prevent fraud, mismanagement, and conflicts, ensuring the estate is handled honestly. Knowing your rights guarantees that your fiduciary will act ethically and transparently, providing peace of mind during challenging times. 

For more information on beneficiaries’ rights, check out our articles “What is a Beneficiary in California” and “20 Ways Your Trustee Can Be Breaching Their Fiduciary Dutiesfor more insight.

Common Challenges and Solutions in Fiduciary Duties

Fiduciaries often face challenges such as conflicts of interest, complex financial matters, and legal disputes. To overcome these, they must adhere strictly to OLDCAR principles, seek professional guidance, and maintain open communication with beneficiaries. Understanding and applying these principles can mitigate many common issues.

Breaching Trustee Duties

A breach of fiduciary duties by a trustee can have severe consequences for the trust and its beneficiaries. When a trustee fails to adhere to the principles of OLDCAR—obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accounting, and reasonable care—they compromise the integrity of the trust administration. For instance, if a trustee mismanages funds, fails to disclose pertinent information, or acts in their interest rather than that of the beneficiaries, they undermine the trust’s purpose. They can cause financial harm and distress to the beneficiaries. Such breaches violate legal obligations and erode the trust placed in the trustee, potentially leading to legal actions and the removal of the trustee from their position.

Beneficiary Rights in California

If you would still like more information on what exactly qualifies as a breach of fiduciary duty, check out our article “20 Ways Your Trustee can be breaching their fiduciary duties” on our website. If you have more questions about your beneficiary rights and what you should know moving forward. 

A cornerstone of trust and probate law is honoring the deceased’s wishes. Plus, protecting the interests of beneficiaries. By adhering to OLDCAR principles—obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accounting, and reasonable care—as a trustee or executor, you can perform your duties with integrity and care, providing comfort and assurance to grieving families.

Next Steps

Understanding the basic duty of a trustee in California is essential for trustees and beneficiaries alike. Trustees can then effectively manage trusts and protect beneficiaries’ interests by adhering to fiduciary responsibilities, maintaining transparency, and seeking legal guidance when needed.

To ensure they follow their fiduciary duties, check out our complete Overview of California Trust Litigation on our website. If you have more questions about your rights as a Beneficiary and what you should know moving forward. 

Our law firm specializes in trust and estate law, and we are here to assist trustees in fulfilling their duties and navigating legal complexities.

Our law firm specializes in trust and probate law, and we are here to help you navigate these complex issues. Contact us today for a consultation. Let us assist you in ensuring your rights are upheld and your trust is managed prudently. Please call us at (888) 443-6590 or fill out our Get Help Now form below.