AZ probate law: What are the issues?

By November 11, 2010Uncategorized

As we have discussed before, reform to AZ probate law is presently underway.  The Arizona Supreme Court has appointed a committee to identify problems that people have had with the probate court and make suggestions to the court as to where there is room for improvement.  Along with the court appointed committee, the Arizona Republic has been performing an investigation of its own to get at some of the issues that may be leading to the perceived problems with AZ probate law.

The Arizona Republic investigation does not paint the best picture of the Arizona probate system.  According to one article, the “Maricopa County Probate Court allows the assets of some vulnerable adults to become a cash machine for attorneys and for fiduciary companies which manage their affairs.”  The article goes on to say that under the present state of AZ probate law, even wealthy individuals can lose their assets in a year’s time to fiduciary and attorney fees.  These problems, the Republic reports, can be attributed to five issues:

  1. Family feuds lead to exorbitant fees, and the courts do not do enough to resolve these feuds.
  2. Attorney and fiduciary fees mount rapidly.
  3. Attorneys, fiduciaries and probate judges have friendly relationships, creating an environment with little accountability.
  4. Those who object to costly fees may be blamed for delay and held personally liable for court fees involved with the objection.
  5. Courts rarely deny fiduciary and attorney fees.

To what extent these issues actually take place is unknown.  The good news, however, is that efforts are underway to remedy any problems – perceived or real – with AZ probate law.  We can expect to see serious improvements to the Arizona probate system over the next couple of years.