1015 Fair Street
Prescott, AZ 86305
The mission of the Yavapai County Public Fiduciary is to provide guardianship, conservatorship, decedent services and court-ordered investigations of the highest standard in a fiscally prudent manner utilizing the least restrictive intervention.
The Public Fiduciary's vision is to provide fiduciary services as mandated by Arizona Statute in a manner which: 1) is in compliance with the highest standards and best practices of the fiduciary profession; 2) is in compliance with the requirements of the Arizona Supreme Court and its fiduciary licensing program, and 3) reflects our commitment to serve Yavapai County and its community to the best of our abilities.
About the Office of the Public Fiduciary of Yavapai County
The Office of the Public Fiduciary was established in 1974 by the Arizona State Legislature. A.R.S. Section 14-5601(A) requires each county board of supervisors to appoint a public fiduciary, and the cost incurred to conduct this office is charged against county government.
The public fiduciary is then appointed by the Superior Court for those persons or decedents’ estates in need of guardianship, conservatorship or administration and for whom there is no person or corporation qualified and willing to act in that capacity. As a guardian the Public Fiduciary ensures that the basic needs of an incapacitated person are met. These needs include, but are not limited to, personal, medical, psychiatric and housing.
The Public Fiduciary is appointed as conservator by the Court when the resident has an estate requiring management and the Court has determined that the person is unable to manage his or her own financial affairs. As court-appointed conservator the Public Fiduciary manages and conserves those assets for the benefit of the protected person. The Public Fiduciary is also appointed by the Court to administer a decedent’s estate when there is no family member or friend willing to serve in that capacity.
Annual accountings and guardianship reports are filed with the Court for approval. The Yavapai County Public Fiduciary handles primarily indigent cases when there are not sufficient funds with which to pay a private fiduciary. However, fees are taken when approved by the Court and there are sufficient funds in the estate of the ward or protected person to pay the fee or partial fee. The Yavapai County Public Fiduciary has an approved fixed fee schedule pursuant to an administrative order of the Superior Court. All support for the wards or protected persons come from their own estates. The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors has directed the Public Fiduciary not to compete with private fiduciaries whenever possible.
Staff Certification and Staffing Status
Professional fiduciaries, including both public and private, are required by statute (A.R.S. 14-5651) to be registered with the Arizona Supreme Court in order to be appointed by the Court to serve as guardian, conservator or estate administrator. The registration process requires the applicant to be fingerprinted, post a bond, pass an examination, and be an adult citizen. The applicant may not have been convicted of a felony and must attest that he/she has not been found civilly liable in an action that involved fraud, misrepresentation, material omission, misappropriation, theft or conversion. Any person may notify the Supreme Court if it appears that a fiduciary has violated a rule under Article 7 of A.R.S. Section 14-5651. A person who in good faith provides information or testimony regarding a private fiduciary’s misconduct or lack of professionalism is not subject to civil liability, and communications regarding a private fiduciary’s conduct are confidential.
The Public Fiduciary is available to speak to groups, professionals or the general public regarding the guardianship/conservatorship process, as well as alternatives to guardianship. The Public Fiduciary and staff attend continuing education in order to keep up with current developments in the law and the requirements of fiduciary standards and ethics.
The Public Fiduciary is fully staffed and fully credentialed at this time. Our staff of seven includes one newly hired team member to replace a recently retired long-term employee.
We measure our success by assuring our compliance with the statutory requirements applicable to each program, including but not limited to, the Arizona Probate Code and the Arizona Code of Judicial Administration.
A guardianship report is due annually for each ward of the Public Fiduciary. This annual report includes an accounting of funds handled during the guardianship. All conservatorship cases require an annual accounting in compliance with the Arizona Probate Code rules, utilizing required forms. The Public Fiduciary has had no board complaints filed against it in the past year and has timely filed all required reports with the court. All accountings and guardianship reports, heard by the court this fiscal year, have been approved by the court. The Public Fiduciary office has no grants or special funding.
The Public Fiduciary has had a typical number of active cases in the current fiscal year (guardianship, conservatorship and/or decedent appointments). As of this writing, there are 71 active cases. There is ongoing fluctuation in the number of our active cases as we receive new appointments and other wards die. An additional 2 pending new guardianship referrals are in process. In both, our office will likely be appointed guardian prior to the close of the current fiscal year. Typically, we have 8-10 new appointments each fiscal year and we expect to be consistent with this average in the current fiscal year.
Each new conservatorship case requires the filing of an inventory and budget within 90 days and this office has met that requirement in 100% of cases. Each guardianship case requires the filing of an annual guardianship report and an accounting of funds handled, as well as a petition for approval of fees. These reports/petitions have been timely filed in 100% of cases. Each conservatorship case requires the filing of an annual accounting, budget, credit report and a sustainability analysis (or simplified forms if ordered by the court), due on the anniversary of appointment. These have been timely filed in 100% of cases.
The indigent cremation program determines financial eligibility and provides for the disposition of those decedents that are approved for county expense. This fiscal year we have experienced an increase in the number of applications to the indigent cremation program.
To date in the current fiscal year, 60 applications for the indigent cremation program have been received and 48 approved. The total applications received, as compared with this date in the prior fiscal year (2020-2021), has increased. The number of applications approved in the current year has already exceeded the total of the prior fiscal year, almost entirely due to increased applications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several referrals are pending review and we anticipate additional referrals which, if approved, will increase the total of approved applications for the current fiscal year to approximately 70. In the prior fiscal year (2020-2021), a total of 43 applications were approved for indigent cremation.
We continue to thoroughly investigate all avenues for reimbursement to assure that no alternatives to county responsibility are available and that responsible parties are located to provide for the final arrangements whenever possible.
The number of court-ordered investigations remained consistent in the current fiscal year. The office has been court-ordered to complete investigations as to the need for guardianship in 5 cases, to date, this year. Typically, our office receives 5 to 10 such formal orders during each fiscal year. These investigations may be ordered by the mental health court in Title 36 cases, the juvenile division, the probate division, or the criminal court in Rule 11-related cases.
We continuously receive informal inquiries by phone and email from the public and community partners (e.g., nursing homes, hospitals, AZ Adult Protective Services) regarding fiduciary services and/or other possible services and options to assist a member of the community.
I would like to thank the Board of Supervisors for their consideration of the Public Fiduciary’s 2022/2023 budget, as presented. Please contact me if you have any questions or if I may be of assistance.