Conservatorship, sometimes called conservatorship of the estate, or in some jurisdictions guardianship of the estate, arises when one person is appointed by the Court to administer the financial affairs of another person. The most common examples are probably cases in which a parent is appointed to manage the finances of a child, or an adult child is appointed to manage the finances of an elderly or otherwise incapacitated parent.
When one person is appointed by the Court to manage the financial affairs of another, we say that the person appointed is a fiduciary. This is an important concept because fiduciaries have responsibilities that the Superior Court of Arizona enforces. In fact, when someone is appointed to be a conservator, that person will probably have to account annually to a division of Superior Court called the Probate Court. There are serious legal consequences for the mismanagement of assets or for not following specific orders of the Court.
Areas of a Conservator’s Responsibility
- Filing of conservator’s bond and inventory of the estate
- Collection of assets and income
- Payment of bills and other financial obligations
- Filing of tax returns as required
- Maximization of the estate
- Reporting to the Court as ordered, usually by annual accounting
- Final distribution at the termination of the conservatorship
How Do You Become a Conservator in Arizona?
- It is advisable to engage the services of an attorney with experience in the Probate Court. It is possible to represent yourself in these matters but that is usually not a good idea because even the smartest person is likely to make procedural errors that can take time and be costly to correct.
- A petition is filed with the Court, a hearing date is set and the Court appoints (1) an attorney to represent the person proposed to be protected, and (2) an investigator who produces a written report.
- Unless there is an emergency situation, a hearing will be held a month or six weeks after the filing of the petition. If it appears that a conservatorship is indicated and there are no objections to the petition then a Court Commissioner will appoint the Conservator.
- If there is an objection to the petition then there is a delay of at least a couple of weeks until a Judge can hear the case and decide if the conservatorship is indicated and if so, who should be appointed Conservator.
One of the first issues to be addressed in any prospective conservatorship matter is whether there is an emergency situation. An example of an emergency is where the person proposed to be protected is the victim of on-going financial exploitation. There are other types of emergencies as well, and any serious emergency probably justifies an emergency conservatorship procedure. When such procedure is invoked, the Court and the attorneys involved will move quickly to set the matter for hearing. It is possible for an emergency appointment to occur within a day or two after first contacting an attorney who routinely works in these cases.
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