Guardianship and Conservatorship in Arizona
Guardianship and Conservatorship are orders created by probate courts in Arizona for the benefit and protection of the proposed ward. A ward is the person placed under the protection of a legal guardian. Responsibilities will vary depending on whether or not the ward is a minor. After finding that the order is needed, the court will appoint a person or persons to oversee the health, personal, and financial well-being of the ward, or the person who needs protection.
Guardianships and/or Conservatorships can be created on a temporary or permanent basis for both children and adults.
Guardianships are created for the personal and/or health based well being of the ward. Conservatorships are created to allow the appointed Conservator to manage the financial affairs of the ward provided their assets exceed a certain amount.
Adult guardianships are created by the court when the proposed ward lacks the capacity to look after their own welfare. This need could arise from any medical condition that has incapacitated the proposed ward. This includes, but is not limited to, degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, or as a result of stroke or traumatic brain injury. The guardian will have authority (subject to the wishes of the court) to direct the medical care and physical well-being of the ward and to make decisions on their behalf.
Conservatorships are similar to guardianships, but relate to the financial affairs of the ward. For people with very limited resources, a conservatorship may not be necessary. An order for conservatorship allows the conservator authority (subject to the wishes of the court) to control the ward’s income and financial resources for the benefit of the ward. Conservatorship is generally more complex than Guardianship in terms of the restrictions placed on the order and has more complex annual reporting requirements, both of which our attorneys can assist you with.
Similar to adult conservatorships, juvenile conservatorship relates to people who need financial control of resources owned by a minor. As with juvenile guardianship, the reason for a juvenile conservatorship does not have to be medical incapacity, but because the ward does not have the authority to manage their own financial affairs due to age. Juvenile conservatorships do have issues specific to them, such as the fact that they are processed by the Superior Court, rather than the Juvenile Court, and have the additional requirements similar to conservatorship to an adult, where it can be very helpful to have legal guidance from an attorney.
Legal Issues Related to Guardian and Conservator Actions
Guardian and Conservator actions are serious legal matters that the courts and ward’s court appointed attorney will scrutinize closely. There are financial and legal risks to the petitioner, especially in the case of contested litigation. Receiving legal advice from an attorney at the beginning of the process is the best way to decide if guardianship or conservatorship is right for you. Learn what risks are associated with your specific situation. Using an attorney may be the best way to ensure a smooth process after you file your petition with the court.
The Guardianship and Conservatorship Process
Almost all guardianship or conservatorship actions will require a hearing before either the Superior Court or the Juvenile Court. Your attorney will attend the hearing, either in person or virtually to represent you and your interests. We will also ensure that you are prepared for the hearing and any testimony that you might give.
Once granted, guardianships and conservatorships require period filings and other compliance related obligations, sometimes customized by the court to the specific situation of the ward. Our staff can assist you with these matters. Specifically, conservatorship may require periodic motions to the court as well as ongoing maintenance.
Guardianships and conservatorships each have annual reports that we can assist with. There are requirements for reporting on the status of the ward’s affairs. Conservatorship annual reports typically include annual accounting requirements, which can be challenging for conservators unfamiliar with the process.
We can help with contested guardianship and conservatorship. If your legal matter has issues that must be addressed before an appointment can be made, an attorney can prepare the pleadings and speak to these issues before the court. Being aware of the courts view on these issues and the statutes is essential in these situations.