The letter below is just one story of many, the phone number has been removed for the sender’s privacy but the message is the same:
I am sending this to you and others who live in Arizona. As a few of you know, my 92-1/2 old mother became a ward of the probate court in February 2008. At the time I knew nothing of the history of the probate court system. At that time I agreed she would be better off because she was spending too much money on junk coins and other “stuff” salesmen easily sold to a lonely widow who still loves men! My mother did not have a fortune set aside but with reasonable management it would last her and she could stay in her house until she passed. Now, the reality: The court-appointed conservator, a for-profit company, managed to spend all of her money in about 28 months. I am her court-appointed guardian so all the conservator had to do was pay normal household bills and try and settle some outstanding bills to those salesmen I mentioned above. We (her family) requested financial information numerous times but the most I received were incomplete schedules which often raised more questions than they answered. After the conservator spent all the money the court released them from that position. Only at that time, after complaining again, did I get copies of monthly billing statements from the conservator. (I have never received any financial statements so still do not know all of the liabilities that are still lurking out there.) You could have knocked me over with a feather. The conservator charged $85 – $95 an hour for entry-level clerical duties. Accounts payable clerks also were billed at those rates but were not skilled in those positions, so things took longer to get done and often had to be redone. And, you guessed it, my mother had paid for every single hour. I am only going to give you one example, but it irritates me so much I need to vent a little. In May 2009 my mother turned 91, and the conservator wanted to throw her a birthday party. Nice gesture, I thought, especially since my mother’s court-appointed attorney, the other relatives and I understood this was going to be a gift from the conservator. The party was very nice, but the bill was over $5,000, and as I found out a year later it was billed to and paid for by my mother!!! House cleaning was charged at $95 per hour. Invitations were bought and returned at $95 and more per hour plus the cost of the invitations. The conservator knew my mother’s finances and any reasonable person would know she could not afford that amount of money.
There are two legislative bills that have been introduced this year: House Bill 2424 and Senate Bill 1499. THEY COULD NOT BE MORE DIFFERENT. HB 2424 was put together with input from people who have experienced such financial and other abuses at the hands of the probate courts (I was not involved because I just became aware of the dueling bills.) It is not perfect but goes a long was in making probate court transactions open to the wards and other interested parties. SB 1499 was written by a committee set up to fix these probate court abuses. Too bad the committee members are the same judges, commissioners, attorneys and conservators that are currently committing the abuses. Talk about the fox watching the hen house! SB 1499 does not begin to address court reform. I’m sure the bill was introduced by legislators who had been told by the committee members that only a little “tweaking” was necessary. This bill is a sham being perpetrated by the people who need to be held accountable. I’m sorry this e-mail is so long, but the word needs to get out that HB 2424 is GOOD, SB 1499 is BAD, BAD, BAD. If you have any questions call me at 602-xxx-xxxx and I will put you in touch with people who can answer them better than I. Thanx for taking the time to read this. It is a very sore subject with me as my mother sits, not in her house, but in a room and board home paid for by the Arizona Long Term Care System!!!