It seems most Arizona citizens are too busy accumulating assets, cars, homes, things, collectibles, etc. while ignoring planning their estates. Or for those that have accumulated a lot of “stuff”, too busy to update their Will or Trust since major changes took place in Arizona trust law effective January 1, 2009.
I get to settle both kinds of trust estates. Those that planned well and kept their legal documents up to date. And those who didn’t. Almost all of my trust settlements have been my own Legacy Trust Portfolio and so far - only one client’s estate required limited probate proceedings over a home taken out of trust before his death.
This year has been a learning year for me regarding client cases. Last spring, a private client who retains me each month as her business manager, was challenged by our county attorney in legal proceedings. Long story short, we shut down the matter in a short period of time in private settlement. A probate lawyer was required and his work was magnificent though costly. The key learning aspect to pass on to you the reader is that you don’t EVER WANT TO HAVE A CONSERVATORSHIP under Arizona court systems! Just today, I found the new private fiduciary in charge of guardianship and money for my client’s mother can not obtain prior bank records from the county fiduciary formerly in charge. Many of the suspected problems I have anticipated are most likely going to be found out in time, just how inept and out of control the county systems are pertaining to a ward in their control.
The next client case was this summer after the death of a super neat client I met and delivered a Legacy Trust Portfolio a few years back. Sadly, his wife was forced into a CONSERVATORSHIP because of his daughter making false allegations against his wife who was appointed to take care of him after a fall that damaged his brain. Of course all of the allegations were later proven false, but the county took over and caused incredible money expenses in court fees, legal fees, etc. Even after his death, the procedure to end the CONSERVATORSHIP is sucking even more money due to a slow court system slow to release their control on his trust and estate assets. The term “milking” the estate has come up often in conversation with his surviving wife.
The last case is way too close to the fire. It is my own mother’s trust estate in Iowa. She died in March 2016 with a sizable estate. Yet today, a probate court (there were no probate assets) is still in control of the funds (what is left after lawyers constantly dip into money on deposit) who allowed my parent’s farmland to be sold against my will at close to 25% of what true value was. Then just as bad, the sale of the income producing farmland killed all income other than a measly $600 a year in bank interest. The annual legal bills run up to $20,000 a year and the court for the most part (and in a fiduciary position) failed to supervise a rogue real estate agent or follow trust dictates for the most part. My own family case is in year 4 with little money distributed to date.
I close in saying that it is bad enough to assist as professional estate accountant/consultant/tax preparer for my clients, as those cases take a lot out of me in helping them. But my own family case is teaching me a new level of patience and waiting I did not think I was capable of. It all is supposed to come to a head this fall if not sooner. But the “feeding trough” of lawyer expenses continues to this day. Please understand there are some things even the best trust portfolio can not control which can cause YOUR estate to end up in probate, or your finances under a court appointed lawyer serving as your guardian or conservator.
But there is a basic document in our trust portfolio that will stop this situation from ever happening to most. It has been used over a hundred times with my own trust portfolio client deaths. This simple legal document allows someone else to manage your money when you no longer can, prior to your death.
Why don’t you stop sawing trees long enough to come in and sharpen your saw with the proper legal documents to protect all that stuff you have accumulated? No obligation of course. Bring me the legal documents you have (saw) for a free review (I can give you general legal information about what you now have), and let’s see if it is time you build a defense to avoid a CONSERVATORSHIP here in Arizona. Doing nothing to guard against one is like self financial suicide.
M.D. Anderson, AZCLDP, Realtor, Professional Accountant