My Turn in Arizona Republic – “Probate Reform Bill Still Needs Changes”

From Courthouse Steps:

The Arizona Republic is featuring My Turn on both sides of the probate reform bills before the state Legislature.   Here is the submission from Laura Knaperek about HB2424:

Probate-reform bill still needs changes

by Laura Knaperek – Mar. 22, 2011 07:48 PM

The Probate Victims Bill of Rights, House Bill 2424, is designed to use the power of the courts and the incentives of free-market reform to stop abusive behavior in the system.  However, the bill as passed in the House was amended to appease the courts and is now problematic in several areas, actually giving paid fiduciaries even more authority over the ward.  HB 2424 must be amended as it moves forward, reflecting the goals of the Probate Victims Bill of Rights.  Oversight is too important to leave solely in the hands of the courts.  The bill, if placed into law, will allow for better-informed consumers and force fiduciaries to compete for business based on price and performance, truly putting the ward’s interests first.  Here’s what the Probate Victims Bill of Rights includes:

- The ability to replace an individual’s guardian, conservator or trustee without cause if it is in the best interest of the ward or protected person.

- The requirement of clear and convincing evidence to determine if an individual needs a conservator.

- A mandate that a conservator produce a monthly accounting of how he or she has spent the ward’s funds.

- A requirement, in the case of a ward paying the bill, that the person being paid has primary duty to the ward.

- The creation of a probate-advisory panel, which would give victims of probate-court abuses a venue to voice issues and concerns and to propose additional statutory changes.

Laura Knaperek is a public-policy consultant and former state lawmaker.