FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2011
Arizona could become National leader with new laws
January 19, 2011-Phoenix, ARIZONA – Following multiple reports of devastating abuses involving Arizona probate court, Arizona State Representative David Smith (R – Carefree) sponsored legislation that would make Arizona the nation’s leader in judicial probate reform. House Bill 2424 seeks to remedy rampant financial exploitation and abuses by Arizona’s probate court-ordered fiduciaries and others in the court system. The concerns over probate abuses have been widely documented in the media and in a report to the United States Senate submitted in September 2010.
When asked about his motivations, Representative Smith shared in an interview with the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts: “I was concerned about the articles I read in the paper, some of the abuses that you point out. In fact, I knew some of the people involved in one case.”
Sherry Lund, who is advocating for HB2424 said, “We are fighting for probate reform so no other Arizona family will suffer from the horrific abuses in the current system. Such reform is overdue and new laws are the solution.”
HB2424 will become the national standard for probate reform. The current draft includes:
- Improving oversight of probate court system by establishing an advocacy panel appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President of the Senate.
- Allowing wards, or their families, to request a change of fiduciary annually.
- Protecting financial interests of persons in probate by “capping” certain fees while requiring the court to establish a fee schedule for others.
- Developing stronger fiduciary accountability by requiring a monthly accounting of expenditures.
- Ensuring the civil liberties and wishes of the ward are upheld and respected.
- Implementing stricter qualifications for probate judges.
One of the key pieces of the new bill is the ability to replace the court appointed fiduciary annually. The case of Marie Long has been one of the most egregious stories of exploitation. When Mrs. Long was placed under the care of a court appointed fiduciary she had a $1.3 million estate, yet it was completely depleted within 4 years leaving her penniless and dependant on the state. When asked about the provision to allow for a change of fiduciary, Jon Kitchel, attorney for Marie Long said if it includes trustess, “Unquestionably, she’d still have her money.”
Laura Knaperek, who is working on behalf of victims of probate abuse said on the bill being introduced, “At the end of the day, probate court is about families. If abuses are occurring in the probate system, families are suffering. This legislation is an important first step towards protecting families. I’m very honored to work for HB 2424 with Representative Smith and the other co-sponsors.”