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Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 AFA Leadership Award Presented to Denice R. Shepherd

The AFA Board is proud to bestow the 2011 AFA Leadership Award to Denice R. Shepherd. Denice has been practicing and litigating in the areas of personal injury, general civil litigation, probates, guardianships, conservatorships and elder law for nearly 25 years. Shepherd is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and serves on the board of the Arizona Fiduciaries Association. Shepherd has served on the panel for court-appointed attorneys in Pima County in guardianship/conservatorship actions for most of her legal career. She has been appointed by the court to represent minors in domestic relations cases and has served as a guardian ad litem. She has also served on the court appointment panels in criminal cases for the United States District Court, Pima County Superior Court appellate and trial panels, and the City of Tucson Magistrate’s Court. Shepherd is a certified fiduciary and has provided fiduciary services since 1994.

Denice serves on the Arizona Supreme Court Probate Oversight Committee, charged with reviewing and adopting court procedures to provide for the protection of vulnerable and incapacitated persons.
Denice is known in the legal community for championing both legal and ethical policies to serve the best interests of wards, safeguarding their health, welfare and resources, while also preserving their quality of life. In addition to her outreach endeavors to raise the standard of care and protection for vulnerable adults, Shepherd teaches future members of the legal profession at clinics for low income adults seeking to become guardians of minors. Denice travels throughout the state and country to educate professional guardians, social workers, attorneys and fiduciaries on the legal and ethical aspects of protecting vulnerable adults.

Denice was recently awarded the NGA Outstanding Affiliate Member Award, and was named recipient of the 2010 Attorney of the Year award, by Southern Arizona Legal Aid's Volunteer Lawyers Program for her pro bono working the area of wills, estates, probate. In June of this year, Shepherd was named one of the top 50 pro bono attorneys in Arizona by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education.

AFA Welcomes New Board Members

The Arizona Fiduciaries Association welcomes our newest AFA Board members, who were elected during last week’s membership meeting at the AFA conference in Tucson


Crismon Cooper, LF
Crismon Cooper is originally from Tucson, Arizona, but graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s in English and an emphasis in Creative Writing. After graduation, at the insistence of her politically motivated family, she worked at the State Senate in Phoenix, Arizona as a Page. Crismon transitioned to the banking field, and worked within the Operations Training Department where she wrote and taught all policy and procedures. She moved into branch management and ultimately to middle management where she interpreted Federal Regulations and wrote Policy and Procedures for all of the departments.

In 1995, Crismon moved to Flagstaff, Arizona with her two children, leaving the larger cities for a community environment. Her family immediately embraced their new lifestyle of living in a beautiful mountain town, and they continue to actively participate in skiing, hiking, kayaking and any other outdoor activities. Crismon drew upon her expertise to read, interpret and write about Federal Regulations to obtain employment as a paralegal with a local law firm, working in the areas of estate planning and guardianship, and other non related areas. In 2003, Crismon, in partnership with her friend Sally Carlson, founded Carlson and Cooper Certified Fiduciaries, LLC. Sally retired officially last year, and the company was renamed Crismon Cooper Licensed Fiduciaries, LLC. Crismon provides services to Coconino and Yavapai counties, and also accepts cases in Apache and Navajo Counties. Crismon Cooper Licensed Fiduciaries, LLC offers the full gamut of fiduciary services including Guardianship, Conservatorship, Trustees under a variety of trusts, Personal Representatives and Agents under Powers of Attorney and serve a varied clientele ranging from individuals with mild to severe dementia to the seriously mentally ill.

Roger Coventry, LF

Roger Coventry, Director of Estate Services for Childers & Berg, LLC, a private fiduciary firm in Maricopa County is a licensed fiduciary in Arizona and a National Certified Guardian. He was a collegiate wrestler at North Idaho College in Coeur d’ Alene where he earned an A.A. in Psychology prior to joining the Army. He served eight years active duty as an infantryman/paratrooper and is a combat veteran. He was one of six soldiers in his class to complete the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E.) Instructor course conducted by the Army Special Operations Command.

Roger earned a B.S. in Business Management Information

Systems and an M.B.A. from Arizona State University, and a Juris Doctorate from Concord Law School. Prior to joining Childers & Berg, Roger was the Deputy Director for the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary. He has presented at local, state and national conferences on fiduciary-related topics. He is a past President of the Arizona Fiduciaries Association and a past President of Media Masters (a Toastmasters organization).

Case Law Updates

In Re MH 2008-000867, No. CV 09-0297-PR(Aug. 5, 2010) Vacating a Court of Appeals decision to the contrary, the Arizona Supreme Court held telephonic testimony of a required psychiatrist’s testimony does not violate the patient’s 14th Amendment right to due process.

In the Matter of the Estate of Roseann McGathy/Waldow vs. LaPorta, No. CV 10-0102PR (Dec. 2, 2010). The Arizona Supreme Court held decisions made by a trial court in a supervised probate are interlocutory in nature and no appeal may be taken until the final distribution of the estate. However, in an unsupervised probate, an order determining the rights in a formal proceeding is an appealable order.
Estate of Mary Winn vs. Plaza Healthcare Inc., No. CA-CV 09-0649, Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, held that the loss of human life is not compensable under aAdult Protective Services Act claim for neglect or abuse, and the inherent value of a human life is not recoverable.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Conservatorship Case Law Update

Division Two of the Arizona Court of Appeals held surety bond could be held liable for illegal acts of conservator prior to issuance of bond holding that guardians and conservators are responsible for pursuing assets wrongfully taken from protected person even if it means suing themselves for misappropriated assets. The Court awarded prejudgment interest against the surety but declined to award attorney’s fees to estate of protected person stating the surety had not taken an unreasonable position, the surety made good legal arguments and the law was unsettled in Arizona. Pacheco vs Hartford, 2 CA-CV 2007-0135, issued September 22, 2008.

Reflecting on 2010

By Beth Jo Zeitzer, Owner and Designated Broker of R.O.I. Properties

As the Arizona real estate market continues to correct itself, 2010 saw many improvements, including a higher sales volume than we've had since 2008, an increased number of short sales, a lower number of Notices of Trustee's Sales than 2008 (21% lower than 2009), and heavy investor activity. Here are some additional highlights from 2010:
*Note: Though some of these stats focus on Maricopa County, we're seeing similar trends for all areas of Arizona.
Active Listings
- In 2010, Arizona had a total of 150,797 new listings. In Maricopa County average monthly listings in 2010 totaled 43,500 (14% higher than 2009, but 20% lower than 2008). 58% of listings were distressed (up from 51% in 2009 and 49% in 2008).
- In 2010, Arizona had a total of 90,331 closings. Of these, 37,833 (42%) were cash deals, indicating high investor activity. In 2008, conventional financing was used in the majority of deals. In 2010, Maricopa County monthly closings averaged 7,100 (20% higher than 2009, and 61% higher than 2008). Of these 2010 sales, 24% were short sales, compared to 22% in 2009 and 9% in 2008. As lenders streamlined their short sale processes, aimed at mitigating their damages, short sales became easier to implement and have gained a higher share of total sales.
- The average SF of homes in the Valley has changed very little since 2008, but the median price per SF has decreased (now 34% lower than in 2008). The 2010 median sales prices was $122,900, compared with $125,000 in 2009 and $184,000 in 2008.
Supply - Sales volume has increased (now at 16% vs 8% in 2008), leading to a lower supply (currently 5.9 months vs 11 months in 2008).
Notices of Trustee's Sales/Foreclosures
- Maricopa County Notices of Trustee’s Sales in 2010 were fairly similar to 2008. Overall, there were 21% less Notices of Trustee's Sales in 2010 vs 2009. However, the foreclosure volume of Notice of Trustee's Sales was higher in 2010 than the previous two years. In 2010, Notices of Trustee's Sales for homes priced under $200,000 totaled 32,876. Those priced $200,000-$500,000 totaled 32,454. Those priced above $500,000 totaled 3,188. Only 5% of Notices of Trustee's Sales are luxury homes priced over $500,000. This is due to a smaller supply, but also an increase in lenders willing to engage in short sales for luxury product. Lenders are able to mitigate their damages through a short sale, especially with luxury product and its longer days on market and capital investment needed for upkeep of these larger homes.
Beth Jo Zeitzer can be reached at 602-319-1326 or bjzeitzer@roipropertie
Sources: ARMLS, Cromford Report, and Ion Data

Friday, February 4, 2011

A New Way to Diagnose Alzheimer's?

A Food and Drug advisory panel has recommended the approval of a brain scan that might give doctors a new way to diagnose Alzheimer's earlier.
See video report on PBS's Need To Know: A New Way to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Offers Hope

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Geriatric Assessment, Management & Solutions, LLC has a full-time position available starting 2/11:

Full-time 40 hour position for a geriatric care manager -- LF, MSW, BSW, CMC, RN, LPN, CMC -- health care, mental health and dementia care experience is preferred. Own caseload in West Valley, Scottsdale, and Phoenix area. Need reliable transportation and current auto insurance. On-call responsibilities 1 week per month during the weeknights and weekend. No health or dental benefits available.

Pamela Braun, MSW, LCSW, C-ASWCM, LF
Geriatric Assessment, Management & Solutions, LLC
P.O. Box 1958
Sun City, AZ 85372-1958

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Call for Bids for Contract Investigators: Maricopa County Superior Court Probate Dept.

The Maricopa County Superior Court Probate Department is accepting bids for contract Investigators for the Maricopa County Superior Court Probate Department.
The link to the solicitation is:

The solicitation will close February 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How Probate Attorneys & Fiduciaries Can Benefit From the Expertise of Investigators

By Andi Murphy
Murphy Investigations, Inc.

One typically thinks of an investigator as the scruffy person slouched down in a beat up car peeking over the doorframe with an old camera and long telephoto lens trying to capture a shot of a husband or wife in compromising circumstances to support a divorce claim or substantiate concerns of a suspicious spouse. Or, an insurance company, through the services of an investigator in a workman’s compensation claim, illustrating on video a claimant miraculously skiing down a mountain who had professed a near inability to walk.

Although these are valid purposes for using an investigator, there is another area of law that is rarely considered as a reason to use an investigator: probate litigation. This can be a big and costly mistake.

The probate attorney and fiduciary are often faced with situations involving issues such as:
1. Will disputes
2. Vulnerable adult/exploitation issues
3. Document forgery
4. Estate distribution
5. Asset identification
6. Heir Location

A seasoned investigator in the area of probate litigation is instrumental in gathering the necessary information and documentation to refute a claim often resulting in a settlement, thereby avoiding the cost of an expensive trial.

How can you use an investigator in such cases? Depending on the issue, your investigator often needs to get out into the community and interview everyone to determine exactly what is going to be said and what is known about the issue(s). If witnesses are found to support your position, then it is prudent to obtain notarized affidavits (for expediency, your investigator should also be a notary). You should bombard opposing counsel with as many affidavits supporting your position so there is no room to doubt that, for instance, Mary Jane was as competent as the day was long.

Let’s take Will disputes. Let’s imagine son Michael is claiming mom, Mary Jane now deceased, was incompetent when she changed her Will and excluded Michael from it. Well, how do we know she wasn’t? Because everyone says so! Who says so? The banker Mary Jane saw every other day and can attest to her competency based on his/her interaction with her, her hair stylist and nail technician she saw weekly whom she paid by check and tipped in cash appropriately each time, her housekeeper that spent two hours with her once a week and who received payment by check each time, her caregiver who was with her seven hours each day and had long conversations with her on varying topics and told her how she felt about her son and her intentions for her estate, her friends that she played bridge with once a month, her neighbors who took her shopping and to the grocery store on a regular basis, her medical doctors, the psychologist she met with before she signed a trust to make sure she was competent a year ago, etc., etc. And, we obtained affidavits from every one of those 25 witnesses (friends, neighbors, relatives, business associates, etc.). Michael will be hard pressed to find anyone to support his position that mom was incompetent when we’ve covered all the bases. Now you have ample and persuasive evidence to settle the case and move on.

This is just one example of how an investigator should be used to attack allegations regarding the competency of an individual and the question of the validity of a Will.

Worried about the expense of hiring an investigator? Investigators’ fees are typically billed at a lower rate than the attorneys’, their paralegal’s, or fiduciaries’ fees, often making an investigator more cost efficient. In addition, all good investigators have sources and contacts that allow them to obtain information in a more cost effective and efficient manner.

Should you need the services of an investigator in another county, state or country, continuing networking efforts keep many investigators in touch with a worldwide group of other investigators so that your needs can be covered.

It’s all about teamwork!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Do You Know an Outstanding Leader?

Would you like to recognize an AFA member for exceptional leadership as demonstrated through service to wards, community outreach and commitment to our profession?

Individuals submitting a nomination need not be an AFA member, but the nominee must be a member as of the date the nomination is received. Please return the signed nomination form by January 31, 2011 (forms may be scanned and emailed). The award will be announced at the AFA’s annual conference, scheduled for February 17 – 18, 2011 in Tucson, AZ.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

AFA's 2011 Conference:The Practice, Ethics & Politics of Compassion

The Practice, Ethics & Politics of Compassion
Thursday, February 17 & Friday, February 18, 2011
Radisson Suites Tucson Tucson, AZ
You don't want to miss:
•20 sessions and a total of 13 CEUs (see a full schedule)
•The Annual Membership Meeting to Elect Members to the AFA Board of Directors
•Sponsors’ exhibits to save you time and money
•Networking and best practices with your colleagues
The early-bird registration deadline of Monday, January 31 is fast approaching. Register now! And don’t forget to renew your AFA membership to access even more savings on your conference registration.
The AFA’s annual two-day conference will focus on practice and protection strategies in serving Arizona’s vulnerable citizens.

The conference will be held at the Radisson Tucson Suites located at 6555 E. Speedway Blvd. Tucson, AZ 85710. Hotel conference rates are $119.00 for single/double. There are a limited number of rooms available, so please make your reservations early. For room reservations, call 520-721-7100. Please identify your group as the AFA.
Early-Bird Registration:
-AFA Members: $200.00 -Non-Members: $240.00
-AFA Members - Thursday or Friday Only: $100.00
-Non-Members – Thursday or Friday Only: $120.00

For early bird registration, forms should be postmarked by Monday, January 31, 2011, registration increases $40 for both days and $20 for one day. Register now to take advantage of the early-bird special! Registration includes breakfast, lunch & materials. Registration via snail mail only, please.
The Arizona Fiduciaries Association
P.O. Box 15572
Scottsdale, AZ 85267-5572

Welcome New AFA Members

Mary Belasco, Jewish Family & Children’s Services
Jason Cobb, Principal, Compass Fiduciary Group, LLC
Joe Cannon, Principal, Joe Cannon
Jeanne Drabiak, Compass Fiduciary Group, LLC
John Jeffery, Jeffery Insurance Solutions
Andi Murphy, Murphy Investigations, Inc.
Jeannean Sabatina, Heartfelt Care, LLC
Cora Schuler, La Paz County Public Fiduciary’s Office
Kirsten Sundahl, Accurate Bookkeeping Services
Henry Wood, Wood Law Firm, PLLC

Diabetes: Rates Still on the Rise

Diabetes cases in the United States are rising at an alarming rate, according to the CDC, which estimates by 2050, as many as one-third of all American adults could have diabetes (October 2010).
•In 2007, it was the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. These new estimates account for higher census figures for minorities and the elderly, groups that generally have a higher rate of Type 2 diabetes.
•One out of every three children born today will face a future with diabetes
•Currently, 24 million American adults and children are living with diabetes and an additional 57 million Americans are at risk.

Probate Case Law: Slayer Statute

Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals held slayer statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Sec. 14-2803, prevented wife who refused to testify as to circumstances of husband’s death claiming Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination from collecting proceeds of life insurance policies even though she was named beneficiary on one policy. The Court further ruled wife could also not recover her community interest in said policies under the slayer statute. Castro vs Ballesteros-Suarez, 1 CA-CV 08-0367, issued June 18, 2009.Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals held that lapsed gift of residuary trust assets would not go to Testator’s intestate heirs, but would, instead go to residual beneficiaries. In this case an art collection was to go to a charity. One of two married Testators soled the art collection prior to death. The dispute arose following the death of the second Testator. The Court reasoned it was the intent of the Testators to benefit the charity rather than their intestate heirs. Zilles vs. American Legion/Shriners, 1 CA-CV 07-0893, issued Dec. 23, 2008.

Veteran Fiduciary, AFA Member Eben Bull Establishes Estate Management Services, LLC

Veteran fiduciary and long-time AFA member Eben Bull recently founded Estate Management Services, LLC, an estate and property management company. After 10 years of estate administration service, Eben founded EMS to support and assist professional and private estate and trust administrators, conservators, care managers, guardians and property owners with their property challenges. Through his experience as a Licensed Fiduciary and Certified National Guardian, Eben recognized the need for a service-oriented, client-directed estate management company.

“Estate Management Services prides itself in collaborating with clients in their efforts to ethically and efficiently administer estates. All control and authority remain with our clients while EMS works to support and address the complex challenges that property management presents,” said Bull.

EMS’s mission is to offer estate and property expertise with exceptional service at a reasonable cost. For information about Estate Management Services, LLC, contact ebenbull@ems-az.com or (602) 354-5157.

**AFA members are welcome and encouraged to share news of their professional endeavors with our membership. Please submit requests and pertinent information via email to: charity(at)azfid.org for publication on AFA’s list serve and Blog.