[author: Kenneth Barney]
During the past few months, approximately 47 statutes have changed or have been added to Arizona’s Probate Code, dealing with probate estates, guardianships, and conservatorships, taking effect on January 1, 2012. Additionally, the Arizona Legislature added approximately 25 changes to various Rules of Probate Procedure, some of which took effect on February 1, 2012 and others that will take effect on September 1, 2012.
The majority of these rule changes alters and adjusts the statutes and rules governing guardianships and conservatorships for incapacitated adults. Some changes include detailed guidelines and requirements for inventory of assets, annual budgets, and annual accounting of conservatorship estates, as well as documenting the sustainability of a conservatorship estate, all of which must be submitted for Court approval.
For most people who have done basic estate planning (a simple last will and testament with proper medical and financial powers of attorney), the majority of these rules will not apply. Those families with proper estate planning and effective power of attorney documents will be able to privately take care of a loved one’s medical and financial needs during an incapacity, without any court intervention. Although a person acting as an agent under a medical or financial power of attorney is still a fiduciary and has certain reporting and accounting requirements to be fulfilled, such person will be able to avoid court supervision of such tasks.
Additionally, new rule 27.1 of the Arizona Rules of Probate Procedure, which becomes effective on September 1, 2012, will require all non-licensed guardians, conservators, and personal representatives (usually family members) who wish to serve in such capacity, to complete a fiduciary training program approved by the Supreme Court of Arizona, before letters of guardian/conservator or personal representative will be issued.
Although, the court has not informed the public what this training program will contain, how long it will last, or what the cost will be to complete the training, it is clear that it will further delay the issuing of letters and make all probate matters (both during life and after death) more expensive for family members to handle a loved one’s affairs through the court system.
What does this mean to you? It means it is time to create a plan to avoid this added stress and cost. Whether it is a simple estate plan incorporating a last will and testament with medical and financial powers of attorney, or a revocable living trust based plan, it is important to talk to a qualified estate planning attorney who can discuss these issues with you and plan accordingly.
If you have any questions regarding family based estate planning or any other legal issues, please do not hesitate to call the estate planning attorneys at Rowley Chapman Barney & Buntrock, Ltd. (480) 833-1113. Kenneth C. Barney is a partner with the law firm of Rowley Chapman Barney & Buntrock, Ltd.