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  • Public Fiduciary

    The Role of the Public Fiduciary

    The Pima County Public Fiduciary serves as the court-appointed Guardian, Conservator or Estate Administrator (Personal Representative) to protect the legal rights and financial interests of vulnerable adults.  The Public Fiduciary also administers the estates of deceased persons when there is no one else willing or able to serve (A.R.S. 14-5602). 

    This duty is separate from that of individuals who do not work for the county known as “fiduciaries in private practice” but who are also licensed through the Arizona Supreme Court.  For more information on the fiduciary licensure process, please see the resources tab below.

    Each county in Arizona has a probate court, which is part of the state’s superior court system. The probate court appoints Guardians for incapacitated persons, Conservators for persons whose assets require protection, and Personal Representatives for the administration of decedents’ estates.  The Pima County Public Fiduciary does not serve as Trustee, Agent under Power of Attorney, exclusively as representative payee, or as Guardian for minors.

    The Pima County Public Fiduciary shall serve only when the following three conditions have been met per A.R.S 14-5304:

    1. The person meets the legal definition of “incapacitated” or a “vulnerable adult”.
    2. There is no other person or entity willing or able to serve, and no other less restrictive alternative exists.
    3. There are resources available that will make it possible for the Public Fiduciary to meet the
      person’s demonstrated needs.
    Cases may be referred to the Public Fiduciary by physicians, hospitals, nursing homes, attorneys,
    Adult Protective Services, professional fiduciaries, family, the Social Security Administration
    and members of the general public.

    Guardianship

    A Guardian may be appointed once an individual has been found to be incapacitated by a Judge of the Superior Court. Incapacity is usually a result of physical or mental illness, an accident or neurocognitive disorder. Incapacitated person is defined in A.R.S. 14-5101.

    The appointment of a Guardian should be considered only when all other options have been exhausted. It should never be used in a retaliatory manner or as a convenience for health-care providers, family members or others. Guardianship can be an intrusive intervention in a person’s life. 

    The fiduciary must be able to assure the Superior Court that they can successfully meet the needs of the proposed ward if appointed. The Pima County Public Fiduciary does not provide direct care services, placement, or other funding, and relies on the individual’s own resources to provide for their needs. 

    In order for the Public Fiduciary to petition the court for appointment as Guardian, the Public Fiduciary must prove three conditions have been met per A.R.S 14-5304:
    1. The person meets the legal definition of an incapacitated adult.
    2. There is no other person or entity willing or able to serve, and no other less restrictive alternative is available.
    3. There are resources available that will make it possible for the Public Fiduciary to meet the person’s demonstrated need.

    Conservatorship

    A Conservator may be appointed once an individual has been found unable to manage their financial affairs by a Judge of the Superior Court and has assets that will be wasted or dissipated if not properly managed. This is not the same as being found incapacitated. 

    The appointment of a conservator should be considered only when all other options have been exhausted. It should never be used in a retaliatory manner or as a convenience for family members, creditors, or others. Conservatorship can be an intrusive intervention in a person’s life.

    The fiduciary must be able to assure the Superior Court that they can successfully meet the needs of the proposed vulnerable adult if appointed. The Pima County Public Fiduciary does not provide direct care services, placement or other funding and relies on the individual’s own resources to provide for their needs.

    In order for the Public Fiduciary to petition the court for appointment as Conservator, the Public Fiduciary must prove three conditions have been met per A.R.S 14-5401:
    1. The person meets the legal definition of a vulnerable adult. 
    2. There is no other person or entity willing or able to serve, and no less restrictive alternative exists.
    3. There are resources available that will make it possible for the Public Fiduciary to meet the person’s demonstrated need.

    The Pima County Public Fiduciary serves as Conservator for both vulnerable adults and minor children.

    Personal Representative

    A Personal Representative may be appointed by the Superior Court to administer the estate of a person who died, referred to as the “decedent.” The Public Fiduciary may serve in cases where two conditions have been met per A.R.S. 14-5602:

    1. There is no other person or entity willing or able to serve, and there is no less restrictive alternative.
    2. There are resources available that will make it possible for the Public Fiduciary to administer the probate of the assets. 

    The Personal Representative is responsible for identifying, inventorying and protecting all of the assets in the estate, paying bills and allowable claims against the estate, paying the administrative costs of probating the estate (including court-approved fiduciary fees) and distributing the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries.

    The Referral Process

    In order for the Pima County Public Fiduciary to process a referral for any of our services, certain information is required. The Public Fiduciary relies on the information provided by the referring party. Please see the appropriate referral for required information.  

    The referral process varies depending on the services needed. Please select the appropriate referral form below for specific instructions.

    ​Referral Forms

    Information and Resources


    Federal Benefit Information and Resources

    Phone

    Federal Poverty Guidelines 

    N/A

    Social Security Administration 

    Main: 800-772-1213 
    TDD (for the hearing impaired):
    800-325-0778

    Veteran Benefit Information and Resources

    Phone

    Veterans Administration

    Veterans Administration: 855-574-7286

    Veterans Benefits (Veterans Affairs): 800-827-1000

    Missing in America Project 

    N/A

    State / County Benefit Information and Resources

    Phone

    Arizona Department of Economic Security 

    General Information: (602) 542-4791

    Aging and Disability Services: (602) 542-4446

    Developmental Disabilities: (602) 542-0419

    Adult Protective Services: 877-767-2385

     

    Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) 

    855-432-7587

    TDD (for the hearing impaired):
    800-367-8939

    Pima Council on Aging

     

    (520) 790-7262

    Arizona Supreme Court & Administrative Offices of the Court 

    Main Number: 602-452- 3300

    TDD (for the hearing Impaired):
    602-452-3545 

    Banner Crisis Response Center (CRC)

    (520) 301-2400

    Miscellaneous Resources

    Phone

    National Guardianship Association

    Phone: 877-326-5992
    Fax: 814-355-2452

    Arizona Fiduciaries Association

    Phone: (623) 322-2944  
    Fax: (623) 587-6061

    Travelers Aid Society of Tucson

    (520) 622-8900

    The ARC

    Phone: 202-534-3700 / 800-433-5255
    Fax: 202-534-3731

    Cenpatico Integrated Care

    (520) 327-4505

    Frequently Asked Questions


    1. How do I know if someone may require a guardian?

    a. The answer may vary and is dependent on the circumstances. In general, a physician, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse must recommend an evaluation for incapacity by the court based on the person’s functional and cognitive limitations. There must also be a demonstrated need. Contact our office to discuss the specifics of your case.

    2. What qualifies someone as a vulnerable adult?

    a. Per A.R.S. 46-451 the definition of “vulnerable adult” is an individual who is unable to protect themselves from abuse, neglect or exploitation by others. 

    3. What is demonstrated need?

    a. The guardian has to be able to accomplish something through their appointment. For example the ward must have their own resources or benefits such as ALTCS available that the guardian or conservator can utilize to meet their needs. Needs may include medical care or housing. 

    4. What are less restrictive alternatives?

    a. Less restrictive alternatives may vary depending on the services needed. Power of attorney, representative payee and surrogate decision maker are some examples of less restrictive alternatives. The Public Fiduciary suggests you seek legal counsel to explore your options. 

    5. How do I find and choose a qualified fiduciary?

    a. A list of state-licensed professional fiduciaries can be found on the Arizona Supreme Court website. In addition to professional fiduciaries, family members may also serve as guardian and conservator. The Public fiduciary suggests you seek legal counsel to explore your options. 

    6. What is the difference between a Public Fiduciary and a fiduciary in private practice? 

    a. They both hold the same license. The Public Fiduciary may only be appointed when there is no less restrictive alternative and no other party willing or able to serve. Private fiduciaries are not the office of last resort and may also serve in less restrictive roles such as trustee and power of attorney.

    7. Is there a cost for Public Fiduciary services?

    a. Yes. The Public Fiduciary charges competitive fees that are approved by the Superior Court. Our current fee schedule is available here.

    8. Does the Public Fiduciary provide direct services?

    a. No. The Public Fiduciary staff are not direct care providers. 

    9. Does the Public Fiduciary fund placements or care services?

    a. No. The Public Fiduciary Office relies on the individual’s own resources and/or public benefits to provide the placement and care they need. 

    10. Does the referral of a person to the Public Fiduciary Office mean that the person now becomes the Public Fiduciary’s responsibility?

    a. No. The first task of the Public Fiduciary is to determine if guardianship or conservatorship is necessary and whether this can be proven to the court. The Office of the Public Fiduciary is responsible only after appointment by the court.

    11. When does The Public Fiduciary serve as conservator for Minors? 

    a. A conservator is required when funds or property has been awarded to a minor child and the court determines those assets must be protected. The Public Fiduciary will serve when there is no less restrictive alternative and no other person willing or able to serve. 

    Peter Santini

    Peter Santini - Public Fiduciary

    Peter Santini was appointed as Public Fiduciary for Pima County in November 2016, following 23 years of distinguished service with the department.  He received his B.A. in Sociology and an M.Ed in counseling from Lynchburg College in Virginia and has worked on elderly issues since 1980. He has served on several boards including those of the Arizona Fiduciaries Association and the Mental Health and Elder Law Section of the Arizona State Bar as well as on the faculty of the Arizona Supreme Court Professional Fiduciary Certification Program and on the Attorney General’s “Stop Abuse & Financial Exploitation Of Elderly” (S.A.F.E.E.) Task Force and the Pima County Death Analysis Review Team (PC DART). Santini is licensed as a Professional Fiduciary in Arizona, a National Certified Guardian through the Center for Guardianship Certification and has presented internationally on fiduciary issues.

    The Public Fiduciary serves as a court-appointed guardian or conservator for vulnerable adults or people who are incapacitated, in order to protect their legal rights and financial interests in probate court and as the estate administrator of deceased persons when no one else is willing or capable of serving in that capacity.

    The Public Fiduciary also serves people who are estranged from their families or are subject to abuse or undue influence, have serious mental or physical health issues or have no place else to turn. Additionally, the Public Fiduciary also determines eligibility and provides cremation or burial for indigent persons.

    Peter supervises a diverse group of experienced, professional staff including attorneys, paralegals, social work case managers, finance administrators, asset supervisors, benefit specialists, and administrative and support personnel as they perform the full spectrum of legal, financial, investigative and other services for vulnerable adults and incapacitated persons of Pima County.

     

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    Public Fiduciary

    32 N. Stone Ave. 4th Floor
    Tucson, AZ 85701

    Peter Santini
    (520) 724-5454


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