Generally, a conservatorship is attained by filing a petition with the Superior Court following Arizona Revised Statute § 14-5404. The Purpose of a conservatorship is to appoint someone (this could be a person or a company) to make financial decision and manage financial matters for a person who is no longer able to make those decisions on their own. In legal terms, this is a person who has become incapacitated. Most commonly, a child applies to be conservator of a parent’s affairs, however, anyone who would be negatively impacted by financial mismanagement of a person’s estate can apply for a conservatorship, it does not need to be a relative or family member.
In order to be appointed as conservator, the person asking the court to appoint them must provide personal information to the court. Some of the information to be provided includes any criminal history that person may have, if that person has acted as a conservator before and what priority does the person applying have to be appointed, in addition to other information. In addition, the person applying must provide information about the incapacitated person, their assets, and why they need to be protected. A conservator may be appointed on a temporary or permanent basis, and the nature of the conservatorship is fully set forth in the letters of appointment.
If a conservator is appointed, they have the responsibility to the protected person of a fiduciary relationship. This means the conservator must always act prudently in dealing with the financial matters and property of a protected person. In addition to this standard of care, a conservator has the duty to keep accurate and thorough records of all the financial dealings and information on behalf of the protected person.
In addition to merely keeping accurate records, the conservator must also make sure that information is put before the court. This is done in several ways. To begin with the conservator must file an inventory with the court of all the assets and property of the protected person at the time they are appointed as conservator. This must be filed within 90 days after the conservator is appointed. Then, the conservator must annually file an accounting of the administration of the estate. The accounting must accurately reflect each transaction that took place during the accounting period and must be filed with the court.
A conservator can invest and distribute funds of the estate as reasonably necessary for support or care. The conservator is only authorized to use funds for the benefit of the protected person. If it is believed a conservator is misappropriating funds for their own use or improperly managing the funds of the estate, an interested person may ask the court asking the court to replace the conservator as well as start an investigation to uncover the nature and the extent of the misappropriation.
There are some situations where a conservatorship simply can’t be avoided. For instance, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney can be executed to name an agent to manage the assets of the incapacitated adult. In other situations, a conservator may only need the limited power to manage assets of the incapacitated persons trust. If you have questions regarding the need for a conservatorship, or, if you are seeking to limit future need for a conservatorship, call our offices to speak with a qualified attorney and find out your options.