To provide guardianship, conservatorship and decedent services in a professional and compassionate manner, when no other person or agency is qualified and willing to serve
The Public Fiduciary is a County official who is responsible to serve as guardian, conservator, or personal representative for individuals who do not have anyone else to serve in this capacity.
Guardianship is a legal relationship which gives to the guardian the duty and right to act on behalf of the individual ward in making decisions affecting his or her life. A person is ruled "incapacitated" and in need of a guardian if a court has determined they cannot make or communicate responsible decisions. The Public Fiduciary will accept appointment to the guardianship of an incapacitated adult but not to that of a minor (ARS 14-5101).
The Public Fiduciary must be appointed by the court. The proposed ward must have an attorney appointed, be visited by a physician and a court appointed investigator (social worker, nurse, or attorney), and there must be a hearing at which the proposed ward is entitled to be present, except in cases where an emergency exists such that "it clearly appears from specific facts shown by an affidavit or by the verified petition that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result before the proposed ward's attorney can be heard in opposition" (ARS 14-5310).
Conservatorship is a legal relationship between a conservator and a protected person. A conservator does not make life decisions as a guardian. In rare cases, the Public Fiduciary may be appointed the conservator for a minor when the first conservator has not properly managed the estate.
The Public Fiduciary may be appointed conservator when there is no other entity that is qualified to serve and is required to account annually for all sums received, disbursed, and invested for the protected person.
Under certain circumstances the Public Fiduciary Office will serve as Representative Payee only. A representative Payee is someone appointed by the Social Security Administration for the purpose of managing an individual’s Social Security benefits.
Another function of the Public Fiduciary is to manage the estates of decedents who have died in Coconino County and who do not have family or other organizations to manage the disposition of their remains and the final distribution of their property.
The Public Fiduciary can and does charge fees for services when estates are able to pay. These fees are based on the amount of time expended and the complexity of the case. This provides a maximum reimbursement to the taxpayer for the service provided. All amounts collected as fees or reimbursements of expenses are placed in the County's general fund. All fees charged by the Public Fiduciary are subject to court approval.
Indigent Burial Program
In the event that an individual dies in Coconino County and neither they nor their next of kin have sufficient resources to provide for the final disposition of their remains the county will provide that service, usually in the form of cremation. In Coconino County the Indigent Burial Program is administered by the Public Fiduciary’s Office. Indigent burial services may not be applied for prior to a person’s death.
What is a Guardian?
A guardian is not:
- A Companion
- a Health Care Provider
- a Reformer - Guardian Does Not Change Life Styles
- a Savior
- a Surrogate Family Member
- a Therapist
- a Warden - Guardian is Not Appointed to Control a Person
Although guardians are often called upon to coordinate the above services or roles the guardian’s main responsibility is to (1) be a surrogate decision maker and (2) an advocate for the incapacitated person.” (From “Guardianship: Consider the Alternatives” by Richard T. Vanderheide – see the “Alternatives to Guardianship” link under the Guardian and Conservator Information tab below).
We would add to this that a professional fiduciary who serves as a guardian is not a direct care provider or a taxi service. It is not their role to take wards into their home and look after them, to take them shopping or to do their laundry, to transport them to and from their medical and dental appointments, or to pick them up and take them to their place of residence when they get released from the hospital or the jail.