Vol. 10, No. 2 February 2014
Problems in Probate
The Clerk’s Office is experiencing confusion from those who file and access confidential probate records. This update addresses those problems and offers tips to improve service and reduce delay.
Filing confidential documents
Rule 7 of the Arizona Rules of Probate Procedure provides specific instructions for filing confidential documents in Probate matters. The rule defines confidential documents as:
· the probate information form
· medical reports and records
· inventories and appraisements
· credit reports
· any other document order by the court to be filed or maintained as confidential
These documents are to be filed in an envelope as specified in Probate Rule 7 and in Maricopa County Superior Court Administrative Order 2012-172. The Clerk’s Office receives a high volume of non-confidential documents that are filed in confidential envelopes. This causes delays in processing, increases the risk of miscategorizing records, and results in problems for Court Administration, fiduciaries, and the public who need to access the public record.
Note that many documents may contain confidential information, such as social security numbers and financial account numbers, but are not confidential documents as defined in Rule 7. These documents should not be filed in envelopes marked as confidential. If needed to comply with Rule 7(D), confidential information within documents should be redacted before filing.
- DO be sure that only documents on the bullet list above are filed in envelopes
- DO include the case number, document title, filing party, and the phrase “Confidential Document” on the envelope
- DO use a separate envelope for each filing
- DO include any schedules or financial documents supporting the accounting as part of the accounting, not filed separately
- DON’T include attorney or fiduciary fee statements as part of the accounting - these should be filed separately and are NOT confidential documents
- DON’T use confidential envelopes to file non-confidential documents, such as Representative Payee Reports, or bank account statements. When received this way, the documents have to be removed from the envelope and processed as non-confidential documents
- DON’T include a confidential envelope as an attachment to another document. Make it clear what is intended for filing as a confidential document by filing it separately
Accessing confidential documents
Authorized access to the documents addressed above is detailed in Probate Rule 7(G) and (H). The Clerk’s Office requires proof of authority before providing access to confidential documents. For faster service, have the court order granting you authority to view or obtain copies of records or the order appointing you as investigator, medical professional, accountant, guardian ad litem, etc. available when requesting access to confidential records. When an individual’s participation in a case is terminated, that individual will no longer be allowed access to confidential documents.