There is an old adage that says you never should mix business with pleasure. Outside of referring to your activities, this saying can be applied to any aspect of business. Whenever a professional combines business and personal resources, the potential for trouble exists. Many of those that we here at St. Denis & Davey have worked with in Jacksonville have seen firsthand how difficult it may be to recover assets and funds from a fiduciary once said professional has mixed them with his or her own. A term exists for this particular breach of trust: commingling.
Commingling is defined as a fiduciary mixing personal funds and assets with that of an employer, client or ward. Some common examples of this may include:
- A real estate agent placing the money for your down payment on a property into his or her own personal bank account
- A landlord using your deposit money for personal reasons
- An investment broker combining yours and other customer-owned securities with those of his or her brokerage
- An attorney mixing funds allocated for your case with his or her own
Once a fiduciary has combined your assets with his or her own, the issue of accountability for them then becomes murky. In each of the aforementioned cases, you are not lending the fiduciary money, but rather entrusting him or her with it. Thus, you are not being asked to assume a credit risk on the fiduciary (even in the case of investment funds, the only risk you should face is that of your portfolio accounts' performances).
In many cases, commingling is considered a criminal offense. When an attorney is accused of it, he or she risks disbarment. You can find out more about the legal options available to you in cases of commingling by continuing to explore our site.