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After Abuses, Probate Reform Looms

Judicial Council to consider recommendations at public hearing Oct. 28

The proposals include:

  • Requiring "good faith" cost estimates for services and expenses, budgets and monthly statements to avoid any sticker shock at the end of a year.
  • Setting fee guidelines for probate lawyers and fiduciaries.
  • Creating a first-in-the-nation sustainability review by the courts to determine whether a person's assets would be sufficient to cover expenses during his or her normal lifespan. Future decisions on expenditures would be made accordingly.
  • Instituting a follow-up system by the courts to ensure that individuals are being treated properly.
  • Implementing training programs for those involved in probate cases. The cost of the proposals has not been determined

Sylvia Stevens, a retired private fiduciary and member of the AARP Arizona steering committee who served on the commission, said the panel's recommendations are a "commonsense approach" to attacking deficiencies throughout the current system.

"We think it's a giant step forward with the transparency, education and post-appointment follow-up being recommended," said Stevens, 83. "Those are trailblazing things."

Mason said the panel's work represents some progress, but she wants even more accountability built into the system.

"These things won't help my grandmother; it's too late for her," Mason said. "I want to make sure I'm protected and other people are. That's what's really important."

Also of interest: Two states where probate gets pricey: California and Florida. >>

David Schwartz is a freelance writer living in Gilbert, Ariz.

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