Conservatorship Accountings

Conservatorship accountings in Arizona are difficult. Every conservator must prepare an accounting showing all financial transactions incurred on the protected person's behalf during the prior accounting period, and submit this accounting to the court for review and approval. In Maricopa County, court-hired accountants then review the paperwork, either recommending approval or denial to the court, or requesting more information from the conservator.

In most cases, the first accounting includes many documents: the accounting itself, copies of bank statements showing the ending balances of all bank accounts, an estate budget, a petition for approval of the accounting, fiduciary fee statements (which are required if the conservator or an attorney wishes to be paid from the protected person's estate), among other documents. Conservatorship accountings usually are about an inch thick, and supplemental filings can be just as large.

In many cases, the accounting is not approved on the first try. The conservator may be ordered to submit additional information several more times for the court accountant's review. The probate judge (called a probate commissioner in Maricopa County) can hold hearings to ask questions or to order additional filings from the conservator. In extreme cases, the conservator can be fined for failing to comply with the court's requests, or even removed as conservator.

It is impossible to list all the problems that could arise when filing conservatorship accountings. Some of the most common problems include, math errors, failing to explain every financial transaction, failing to transfer all financial accounts into the name of the conservatorship, failing to fully explain large or unusual expenditures, failing to use the proper forms, and failing to answer the court's questions.

Addressing all of these issues makes preparing court accountings time-consuming and often expensive. The conservator's goal in preparing an accounting should be to explain things with such clarity that the court accountant has no concerns and the court approves the accounting on the first attempt. In cases that involve unusual circumstances or transactions, it is nearly impossible for the accounting to be approved on the first try. Supplemental filings are often needed to explain the transactions to the court.

It is essential that all conservators, or anyone considering petitioning for appointment as conservator, understand how difficult this process usually is. You should not petition for appointment as a conservator until you understand the accounting process and are comfortable preparing the accounting. Unfortunately, many conservators are unprepared and surprised by the accounting rules when the first accounting is due one year after appointment.

Please contact me if you need assistance preparing a conservatorship accounting or if you are interested in becoming a conservator and would like to better understand the process.