Several years ago, there was a case in the media, involving a conservator and guardianship in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which was under great scrutiny because of the conservator and attorney fees which depleted the ward, Marie Long’s, estate. This sad case is the “poster child” of the consequences of failing to properly plan for disability.
Marie Long, as is the case with many elders, was thought to be of diminished capacity and unable to take care of herself or her property. She did not have in place two very simple but important estate planning documents—a health care power of attorney and a durable financial power of attorney. This means that she did not appoint anyone to make her medical care decisions and handle her finances in the case of incapacity. Neither did she have a living trust under which she would have defined under what circumstances she would be deemed incapacitated and would have appointed a successor trustee to manage her trust assets during her incapacity.
Without an estate plan, an expensive “team” was assembled—a doctor to examine her to conclude that was legally incapacitated, a conservator and a guardian to manage her affairs, a court appointed lawyer to “protect” her, and the lawyers representing the conservator/guardian. This led to the Probate Court concluding that Marie was in fact incapacitated, appointing the guardian and conservator, against Marie’s wishes.
So, many hundreds of thousands of dollars later, Marie’s estate was reported to be insolvent, having been spent on conservator and attorney’s fees. Just think if Marie had read an article like this when she was in good mental health and appointed the people, she trusted to take care of her affairs privately, without the need of probate court, and without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please let the case of Marie Long be the warning that you need to act, quickly, so this will never happen to you. Call us at 480-491-3216 to have these documents prepared or updated.