Many estate planning devices used by Tucson residents to manage and distribute their assets after they die or if they become incompetent to perform those roles make use of a person who acts as a “fiduciary.” A fiduciary in this context is a person who has demonstrated the necessary attributes of honesty and trustworthiness to be able to take possession of and manage the assets of another person. The term “fiduciary” often includes a variety of roles that are used to manage other person’s property. For example, fiduciaries can be trustees, guardians, conservators or personal representatives of estates.

In Arizona, each county appoints “public fiduciaries” to act on behalf of persons who have not appointed or are unable to appoint their own fiduciaries. These fiduciaries serve as guardians for incapacitated persons, conservators for persons who are unable to manage their own assets, and personal representatives for management of decedents’ estates.

Fiduciaries fall into two classes: public fiduciaries and licensed or private fiduciaries. All fiduciaries in Arizona are regulated by the Administrative Office of the Arizona Courts, and they all follow the same laws and regulations.

Public fiduciaries are appointed by each county’s board of supervisors. Public fiduciaries are considered to be the “fiduciary of last resort” when there is no one else willing or capable of serving. Fees charged by public fiduciaries must be approved by the court. Public fiduciaries are appointed to fill the same roles as private fiduciaries, such as guardian, conservator or personal representative.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the role of public and private fiduciaries may wish to consult an experienced estate planning attorney or a former public fiduciary. Such advice can be especially helpful to persons who have recently moved to the state and are unfamiliar with the concept of a fiduciary.