Public Fiduciary Division
The Cochise County Public Fiduciary is the state-mandated office established to serve as Guardian, Conservator, and Personal Representative of last resort for individuals and decedents who are in need of such services and for whom there is no one else who is willing or able to serve in such capacity.
For additional information, call us at 520-432-9660.
A Conservator may be appointed for someone who is determined by the court to be unable to manage his or her own finances or property. As a Conservator, the Public Fiduciary is not only responsible for managing the person's finances and property, but also for securing benefits for clients, as needed. Under the court's supervision, the Conservator manages the person's assets in his best interest and to meet the person's needs. Annual accounting is filed with the court for approval providing detail of all receipts and disbursements as well as a list of assets.
A Guardian may be appointed by the court after issuing a finding of incapacity at a court hearing. As a guardian, the Public Fiduciary is responsible for managing all aspects of a person's life including medical care, place of residence, personal care, etc. A guardian is required to use substituted judgment in making decisions for the ward. When that's not possible, the guardian is required to use the standard of the ward's "best interest". The appointment of a guardian should be considered only when all other less restrictive options have been explored.
A guardianship is granted to meet the demonstrated needs of the person. Meeting the demonstrated needs of the proposed ward means the guardian has access to the ward's income and assets or to resources and programs the ward qualifies for. The Public Fiduciary does not provide funds to pay for the ward's services, medical care, or placement. The ward's income and resources are used to pay for his own care and to meet his needs. An annual report is filed with the court for approval providing information regarding the ward's care and condition.
Decedent Estate Probate
A Personal Representative may be appointed by the court to administer the estate of a person who died (decedent) with or without a Last Will and Testament. The Public Fiduciary may be appointed as personal representative if the nominated personal representative, heirs, and devisees cannot be located and there is no one else with statutory priority to serve in such capacity. The estate value must meet minimum requirements for probate. As the administrator/personal representative of a decedent's estate, the Public Fiduciary is required to inventory, collect, and preserve the assets of an estate.
The Public Fiduciary is responsible for inventory the decedent's assets; provide notice to creditors; liquidate assets to pay expenses of administration, burial expenses, and outstanding debts; find and distribute assets to any potential heirs if any assets remain after expenses and creditors have been paid in full. An accounting is filed with the court for approval providing details for all transactions recorded during the administration of the decedent's estate.
The Public Fiduciary charges fiduciary fees and costs of administration. The fees and costs are approved by the Superior Court for each ward's case and the Board of Supervisors approves the fee and cost schedule periodically. Fees will vary each year and for each ward depending on the number of services provided.
If it is believed that a person in Cochise County may be in need of a Guardian or Conservator and there is no one else able or willing to serve in that capacity, the Cochise County Public Fiduciary's Office can be contacted. The Cochise County Public Fiduciary also investigates the need for a Probate action to handle decedent estates. The estate must have resources available that will enable the Public Fiduciary to conduct duties required of a personal representative.
The information will be kept confidential, and the referral will be investigated. Should it be deemed that a Guardian/Conservator is necessary for an incapacitated person or a person in need of financial protection, then a petition will be made to the court. Referrals received by the Public Fiduciary are assigned a level of priority based on the facts and documentation received from the referral source.
Once the Public Fiduciary has determined that it is appropriate and necessary to pursue court appointment as guardian and/or conservator, a petition is filed with the court. At that time, an attorney is appointed to represent the proposed ward in the court proceedings. A court investigator is also appointed to visit with the proposed ward and complete an independent report to the court as to his findings in regard to the petition. Upon review of all the evidence, it is the Judge at the hearing, who makes the final decision as to the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator. A guardianship and conservatorship can only be terminated by court order.