We have discussed Arizona’s Committee on Improving Probate Matters on this blog before. As a refresher, the committee is made up of 20 members, who have been appointed to come up with recommendations to improve certain proceedings under AZ probate law. The committee is following a timeline to come up with these recommendations, and we can expect to see some of their recommendations implemented within the next year. An important deadline is fast approaching for the committee, as it is expected to have an interim report to the court’s advisory group by late October.
The interim report will provide the court with the committee’s initial recommendations. And, while the committee still has time to refine these recommendations, the interim report provides us with a pretty good idea of the committee’s focus thus far. The interim report is already available on the committee’s Website, where the following initial recommendations are described in greater detail:
- Conservators should be subject to random accounting audits.
- Probate judges and court officials should undergo uniform training on Arizona probate law.
- The court should improve its online uniform probate case forms.
- Attorneys and fiduciaries should be required to bill a ward’s assets within one year to 18 months.
- Parents or spouses should be able to leave written instructions other than a Will about who should care for their child or spouse if they become unable to do so.
- Probate Courts should have top priority for improvements to case monitoring systems.
- Guardianship proceedings should be streamlined for an incapacitated minor who is turning 18.
- Court officials should make unannounced visits to wards to make sure they are receiving adequate care.
- New funding should be explored to pay for these recommendations.
- The state should adopt fee guidelines for fiduciaries and attorneys who are paid from a ward’s assets.
- Judges should be permitted to require relatives, fiduciaries and attorneys to reimburse costs stemming from their unreasonable demands or lawsuits.
- Arbitration should be mandatory when disputes about fees arise.
As you can see from the committee’s recommendations, the fiduciary relationship will be more tightly controlled under Arizona probate law if and when these recommendations are adopted. While some professional fiduciaries may see this reform as a burden, the added protections will likely provide many people added peace of mind.