Lately, there has been no shortage of news stories about problems with AZ guardianship law. And, like most hot button issues, much of what we are hearing about stems from a few anecdotal stories. One such story has been told and retold in the press, and seems to always elicit a strong response from readers. The story is of one Marie Long, an elderly Arizonan who, according to many, has fallen victim to a flawed system. And, because of the shocking nature of this particular story, it has become part of the impetus for a thorough overhaul of Arizona’s probate system.
Ms. Long’s story began in 2005, when she suffered a stroke that caused her to come under the Probate Court’s protection. The court established an AZ guardianship, and Ms. Long was placed under the care of a professional guardian. At the time the guardianship was established, Ms. Long had over 1.3 million dollars, but her guardians and their attorneys had depleted $800,000 of these funds by 2008. When Ms. Long’s attorneys challenged the guardian for making these exorbitant expenditures, the court sided with her guardian and accused Ms. Long’s attorneys of wrongfully attacking innocent parties. In essence, then, the court signed off on expenditures of nearly $300,000 per year by Ms. Long’s guardians.
Ms. Long has become known in Arizona probate news as the woman who was “protected into the poorhouse.” Those who were charged with the duty of looking after this woman apparently did nothing of the sort, and Ms. Long now has very little left. Of course, while this is indeed a horrible story, it is important to remember that there are countless untold stories of successful AZ guardianship and AZ conservatorship proceedings. Many times, working with a trustworthy guardianship attorney is in fact the only way to offer an incapacitated person the protection he or she needs. As such, while it is important to keep Ms. Long’s story in mind, it is also important that you don’t altogether rule out a guardianship if you have somebody close to you who requires assistance making his or her important decisions.