For some time now, there has been a lot of talk in the state about updating AZ probate law. This discussion started with complaints about how fiduciaries have too much leeway under the Arizona Probate Code, and how this leeway has allowed a handful of them to abuse the system. Although it has taken many months to get here, the state legislature appears to have narrowed down its options to two competing bills, SB 1499 and HB 2424. In this post, we will discuss Senate Bill 1499, and in the next post, we will discuss House Bill 2424.
SB 1499 has garnered support from many attorneys, fiduciaries and judges throughout the state. It imposes stricter reporting requirements on fiduciaries, and increases their accountability to the Arizona Probate Court. Further, in an effort to rein in costs, the bill limits the types of expenditures that fiduciaries can make with wards’ money. The legislation’s primary thrust is to make fiduciaries more accountable under AZ probate law.
Under the bill, probate judges have the ultimate authority to keep fiduciaries accountable. It is up to judges to check budgets submitted by fiduciaries, and make sure that they do not spend excessively. While the bill does allow those close to the ward to make complaints to the court, judges can require complainants to pay attorney fees and court costs personally if it deems that such complaints were made without merit.
Wards will certainly have more protections under SB 1499 than they do under the present state of AZ probate law. Opponents to the legislation, however, argue that SB 1499 leaves judges with altogether too much authority, and that additional safeguards need to be implemented to prevent judges from abusing their discretion. This point has created a divide in the legislature, making the passage of new legislation somewhat of an obstacle.
We still have some time left before the legislature makes any final changes to AZ probate law. No matter how it turns out, however, navigating the Arizona Probate Code will have its difficulties. Even after the passage of new legislation, those with an Arizona probate lawyer will be best equipped to navigate the Arizona Probate Code.