Fiduciary relationships

Fiduciary relationships are ones in which one party has rights over the other or the other's affairs specifically because of responsibilities for the welfare of the other. We often think of fiduciary relationships as being like the one that a trust officer in a bank has toward the person or group who has entrusted their funds to the bank. The term fiduciary is most often applied in matters of money, but the concept of a fiduciary is much broader and comes from the recognition that, from time to time, one person may be entrusted with the welfare of another. When this is the case, that person, the fiduciary, has the right to act on the other's behalf.

Not everyone has the right to flag down drivers and force them to pull off the road. Police officers have that right because they have a responsibility to maintain public safety. If someone is driving in violation of the law or in ways that endanger others, we want to have someone who can and will address the risk. For that reason we entrust police officers with special powers, special rights.

Not everyone has a right to teach school. Teachers are trained and certified and evaluated to be sure that they are acting in a manner that promotes education, safety, and social development in the classroom. They have rights with regard to our children because they have responsibilities for our children's welfare.

Judges, pastors, doctors, city council members, custodians, computer network administrators all have special rights that others don't have specifically because they have responsibilities for the common good. Perhaps the largest group of fiduciaries is parents. Parents have the right to make decisions about what their children will or will not do because they have responsibility for the children's welfare. I have the right to tell my child to go to bed because I have responsibility for her wellbeing and I know she needs her sleep.

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