Data Anxiety

Tempus fugit

Many Arizonans unaware what can happen if unable to care for themselves

Nor do many of us know what the responsibilities of a fiduciary are in overseeing a person’s finances and care!

Due to this unfamiliarity, the Arizona Republic has initiated a two year investigative report on the subject. They’ve found many instances of flagrant failure of the fiduciary, and possible cases of judicial abuse (in probate court).

See below and at the AZ Republic online for more details.

Probate Court: A troubled System.

An Arizona Republic Investigative Series

OVERVIEW: An investigation by The Arizona Republic has revealed that Maricopa County Probate Court is allowing the life’s savings of vulnerable adults to become engines of profit for attorneys, for-profit fiduciaries and care providers. Their fees can drain a large portion of the assets of people who have lost the ability to take care of themselves.

Shutting down (02/08/10)

Major fiduciary firm is going out of business

The Sun Valley Group, which has been waiting nearly a year for the state to renew its license, petitioned the court to transfer more than 80 cases to a new firm before it ceases operation on Feb. 28.

A lack of awareness (12/30/10)

More traps can await finances of the elderly

Agencies whose sole mission is to help the elderly can end up putting their lives in the control of expensive for-profit businesses that can wipe out their life savings.

Costs often shock the elderly, their families

Aging adults targeted (12/29/10)

Fiduciaries criticized for pursuit of helpless

If you become ill from old age and can no longer take care of yourself, the people you and your family turn to for help can hand over control of your life to an expensive for-profit business.

Arizona Court of Appeals targets high fees

The Arizona Court of Appeals has joined a growing number of critics calling for stricter oversight of legal and professional fees that have been allowed to wipe out the life savings of adults under the protection of Maricopa County Probate Court.

Court tightens its scrutiny of fees charged

Judges in Maricopa County Probate Court are cracking down on the kinds of fiduciary and attorneys fees that have depleted the savings of wards under the court’s protection.

Law firm look (12/03/10)

Lawyers often ratchet up fees in probate cases

An ongoing Republic investigation of the county Probate Court has found that attorneys and private fiduciaries charge fees that can quickly deplete an incapacitated person’s life savings.

Ryle’s case (11/29/10)

Deceased priest’s estate leads to big fee battle

Monsignor Edward Ryle’s case is an example of how probate cases can sometimes become far more expensive than families expect when they turn to attorneys and for-profit fiduciaries for help when a relative dies without leaving instructions about their assets.

Learning from other states (11/28/10)

More fee safeguards in other cities

Over nine months in 2009, Bess Christiana, 85, who suffered from dementia and couldn’t take care of herself, paid $35,441 to a court-appointed private fiduciary to manage her health care and finances. An examination by The Arizona Republic indicates Christiana would have paid significantly less for fiduciary service in Austin and Tampa.

Part one: An overview of the findings (9/26/10)

Life savings, freedom taken away

When people are too old or sick to care for themselves, the legal system is supposed to protect their welfare.

But in Maricopa County, court-appointed professionals entrusted with their care can drain away assets through a spiral of fees that relatives are powerless to stop.

What we found

A Republic investigation reveals how five key problems can plague cases in Maricopa County Probate Court.

A dispute between siblings pushed the affairs of Dixie Nichols into Probate Court. In five chapters, her story illustrates five key problems that can arise during the process, as mounting fees become unstoppable.


Roberts: One ward is saved - but a life’s savings is lost

An elderly widow comes to Maricopa County Superior Court’s probate division and finds herself protected right into the poorhouse.

Diagrams & Data

The road through probate court
A guide to what happens if you become incapacitated.

The bills mount up quickly
A close-up of one month of billings in a disputed case.