Monday, January 24, 2011

Laurie Roberts: Will the Legislature Ride to the Rescue of the People in Probate?

People often ask me what we can do about the mess that is probate court. How, they ask, might Marie Long have managed to hang on to some of her life savings instead of watching an estate worth $1.3 million plummet to zero in just four years?

What steps can people take to avoid falling victim to a system where fiduciaries and attorneys so often seem to wind up with a nice pile of cash, courtesy of the people they're supposed to be protecting?

Finally, I have an answer.

A bill was introduced in the Arizona House on Tuesday that would make it easier for vulnerable people or their representatives to have some say in who is handling their money and their care.

I know. It's radical stuff. Right now, the deck is stacked in favor of court-appointed fiduciaries and if you try to remove them, they use your money to fend you off.

House Bill 2424, sponsored by Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Carefree, won't be the only probate proposal before the Legislature this year. Sen. John Nelson, R-Glendale, also has one and others are in the works. Thus far, I'm skeptical about Nelson's proposal, which is taken from a draft report of the Supreme Court's probate review committee. It appears to actually strengthen the fiduciaries' hand, although Nelson says that's not his intent. I do appreciate his reasoning for wanting to fix what ails probate.

“There was probably some good intention in putting the system together but candidly, I think it's being abused,” Nelson told me. “I think people are finding ways of using clients' money for their own benefit. When somebody goes in with a million-and-a-half-dollar estate and comes out with nothing … something's wrong.”

Something is wrong and now the Legislature could ride to the rescue, led by a freshman lawmaker on his second stint at the state Capitol, having been forced out a few years ago for not following the state's Clean Elections law.

“I was concerned about articles I read in the paper, some of the abuses that you point out,” Smith said, in explaining why he introduced HB 2424. “In fact, I knew some of the people involved in one case.”

Smith was referring to Bill Lund, who became embroiled in a probate dispute involving the trusts of his children, the grandchildren of Walt Disney. Lund hired a former state legislator, Laura Knaperek, to lobby for the bill.

"We're just trying to put more accountaibility in the courts and give wards more rights," she said.

Full Article and Source:
Will the Legislature Ride to the Rescue of the People in Probate


Thelma said...

Hell, no! Aren't they all lawyers or mostly all lawyers?

jerri said...

i agree thelma and look who is funding the legislators via lobbyists special interest groups i consider these untrue descriptive words of what is really going on the true word is bribe...... the legislators to write laws the benefit those who bribe while we the chump taxpayers are taken for fools while we pay the legislators salaries benefits so they can sell us out and most often they do our taxes going to work against us is this nuts or what?

Connie said...

I don't think they'll rescue the people, Laurie, but maybe they will help some.

Anonymous said...

I guess help some is better than no help with the hope of fine tuning the final draft to perfection but the thing is the bill needs to be reviewed by those who are not in the system by others who would know the loopholes and sinkholes.

Only then it can it be set in stone that the people truly will be rescued from predatory language in the laws.

Barbara said...

One again, my thanks to Laurie Roberts for staying on this important issue like a bull dog!

tvfields said...

I agree, at least up to a point, with the simple reform suggested by wuwei327 on Jan 23, 2011, according to which attorneys and fiduciaries would not be allowed to use client assets to fund defenses against challenges to their caretaker roles. With this in mind, I'd like Laurie to dedicate space in her column for listing, debating and developing such proposals -- including an interview protocol which (1) has been proposed for the purpose of preventing financial exploitation by means of financial/legal documents including Wills, deeds, trusts and POAs of those who are most at risk, including the ill, disabled and elderly and (2) is based upon the following steps
Step 1: Use a checklist to identify situations where the rest of this protocol needs to be followed;
Step 2: Ask the transferor open-ended questions to learn what business, if any, he wants or expects to conduct at this time;
Step 3: Ask the transferor to provide details about what he expects the document to include;
Step 4: Ask the transferor questions which others might reasonably want to ask if they were present, including questions about the transferor’s understanding of the suspicions that his signing the document might raise and the transferor’s ability to address those suspicions;
Step 5: Explore potential conflicts between the transferor’s expectations and the content of the document.

Anonymous said...

Yes, only if the author is nonlawyer. We need the public opinion in determining the best interest of the ward (person under guardianship) and if money is involved, his/her assets should be made public.