Guardianship & Conservatorship | Conservatorship | Guardianship of a Minor | Emergency Guardianship | How to Transfer Guardianship

An Arizona Legal Guardianship Proceeding

File for Legal Guardianship in Arizona

As an Arizona Certified Legal Document Preparer, Senior Planning assists with the preparation and filing for guardianship and conservatorship for a family member or loved one. 

If you are already familiar with what guardianship is, you can jump to how can professional document preparers help.

What Is Adult Guardianship?

If someone does not have a power of attorney and is not mentally competent to sign one, guardianship may be necessary if you are hoping to apply for benefits or manage their affairs. Another situation where it might be necessary is if a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and their doctor has recommended guardianship for safety. As a document preparer, Senior Planning cannot tell you if this process is right for you but we can give you information to aid your decision-making and answer any questions you may have.

When you become a guardian for a person with dementia, you are given rights similar to the rights of a parent with their child. You will be able to handle their finances and health decisions.

What is the Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship?

Guardianship allows someone to take over and make decisions on another person’s behalf regarding health and welfare, while conservatorship is mostly related to the financial affairs of the person.

What Is Guardianship of a Minor?

Sometimes, whether through choice or necessity, a child must be placed into the care of someone other than their parent. This is called guardianship of a minor. In order for this person to have similar rights to a parent, they must appeal to the court to become a legal guardian. Rights of guardianship include, but are not limited to, making medical, education, nutritional, and housing decisions. A guardian is able to perform much of the same functions as a parent, but this is not to be confused with child custody. A guardian is not always legally responsible for monetary support of the child, especially if there is already a court order for child support for the non-custodial parent. However, a guardian is responsible for misconduct or damages caused by the minor, up to the first $10,000 in damages.

Common Minor Guardianship Rules:

  • If a parent owes child support, but someone else has guardianship, they are still obligated to pay child support. 
  • Except for in the case of developmental disabilities, guardianship usually ends when a minor turns 18.
  • A parent can end a guardianship at any time, for any reason, by re-petitioning the court and scheduling a hearing. 
  • If a guardianship is granted, parents’ legal rights are not terminated, they are just suspended.

Why File for Guardianship?

1. To Care for a Disabled Adult

In many cases, a guardianship and/or conservatorship is granted to parents of disabled adult children. As a parent, your main concern is that your kids are healthy and taken care of. If they aren’t able to make choices about their healthcare, education, or housing issues, then it may be in their best interest to have someone help them.

Once your child turns 18, you are no longer legally able to make any medical decisions for them. If they supervision or care beyond their 18th birthday, it would be smart to petition for guardianship. Many parents with adult children that have traumatic brain injuries, Down syndrome, autism, and other developmental disabilities find it easier to provide adequate care if they are granted guardianship over their children into adulthood.

2. To Care for an Aging Adult

The unfortunate truth is that as our loved ones age, they often lose the ability to care for themselves. When illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, strokes, and other conditions prevent a person from competently making their own decisions, it may be time to take the step towards guardianship. You’ll be able to make legal and medical decisions on their behalf.

3. To Care for a Child in an Unsafe Home

While in most cases, the state wants kids to stay with their parents, this is not always the best choice. Sometimes parents are not providing a safe, healthy, or stable living situation. With the parent’s consent, any interested adult can be granted guardianship if a judge feels it is in the best interest of the child. A parent’s consent may not be necessary in extreme cases like abuse, excessive drug or alcohol use, or severe neglect. A judge may grant someone other than the child’s parents guardianship without parental consent in order to give the child a safer, more stable home.

4. To Care for an Orphaned Child

One major reason guardianship is requested in Arizona is when a relative is requesting to take over guardianship after a child’s parents have died. Some parents name a guardian in their will, but others do not have this outlined, leaving the decision to be made by friends, family, and the courts.

5. To Care for a Child Whose Parents are Unwilling or Unable to Do So

Not all parents are parents by choice. If a parent is unable or unwilling to care for their children and provide them with the basics – food, water, clothing, and shelter – they may give guardianship to another family member, such as a grandparent. Guardianship does not renounce custody rights, but it does allow someone other than the parents to make health, financial, and education choices until the child turns eighteen.

How to Become a Legal Guardian

A lot of people mistakenly believe there is an application that must be completed to obtain guardianship. Unfortunately, this is not how the process works. To become a legal guardian in Arizona, you must file a petition with the court and attend a hearing. At the hearing, you must provide documentation to the court about the case. Only a judge can make someone a legal guardian. It must be shown that it is in the best interest of all parties involved. 

How Do I Get Adult Guardianship in Arizona

Initially, you will need to file a petition for limited or general guardianship. Following that, there will be at least one hearing. There must be a hearing in the county in which the incapacitated adult lives, and they must be personally served. In some situations, the court may require a bond by the guardian, but not in every situation.

Beyond that, there is a substantial amount of paperwork involved along with the court hearings. If you have any difficulty with organizing large amounts of paperwork or managing time limits and deadlines, then it may be in your best interest, as well as the interest of your case, to work with an experienced professional. However, a professional does not have to be an attorney.

In Arizona, you can use a licensed document preparer like Senior Planning to aid in your filing for guardianship. While a document preparer cannot represent you in court or offer legal advice, many guardianship cases do not require representation in the courtroom. For those who have thought about guardianship, but have not pursued it due to costs, a legal document preparer is a much more affordable option than an attorney.

What is Guardianship; a legal guardianship

How Do I Get Guardianship of a Minor in AZ?

Anyone may petition the court for guardianship of a minor – a legal guardian does not have to be a family relation. The interested person must file the appropriate paperwork with either Probate Court or Juvenile Court, depending on the county and the situation. Perhaps most importantly, the interested party must serve legal notice to whoever is currently holding legal custody or guardianship. If someone other than a parent has custody or guardianship, any living parents must also be notified at least sixty days in advance of the hearing. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Guardian in AZ?

Each situation is unique so it can be hard to predict legal timeframes and outcomes. For permanent guardianships and conservatorships, the process can take months. In cases of emergencies as described above, a hearing can take place within days and an outcome reached within weeks. Of course, this also depends on the court’s current caseload and their ability to hear your case. 

When considering any guardianship, be sure that you will be able to meet the needs of the ward in question. The safety of the ward will always be the top priority in any decisions related to guardianship, so come prepared to show that you will provide safer circumstances than the ward is currently experiencing. Before beginning the guardianship process, it could be wise to consult with a professional to ensure that your case is represented correctly before the court.

What Is Conservatorship?

Most commonly, conservatorships have to do with seniors. However, a conservatorship can be for a person of any age who is not competent enough to make financial decisions for themselves. Even though this article is about “What is Guardianship,” conservatorships go hand in hand with guardianships. Conservatorship allows a court-appointed individual to make decisions on someone else’s behalf. This individual may be a family member, but they do not have to be. Despite our name, Senior Planning can help prepare the filing for conservatorship for a person of any age. 

Conservatorships can be temporary or permanent. When you are granted a conservatorship, you are given the power by a judge to make choices for an incapacitated person or someone who cannot legally make their own decisions (like a minor or someone with developmental disabilities). 

For older adults, many conservatorship cases revolve around adults who are in comas, have suffered a traumatic brain injury, or have dementia. If someone in your life has gone through a serious injury or sickness that resulted in them losing the ability to care for their finances, you can seek to become their conservator.

There are different types of conservatorships that allow for different privileges so make sure you are filing for the right kind. 

Sole Managing Conservatorship

A specific form of conservatorship assigned to minors is the Sole Managing Conservatorship. Typically granted to a single parent post-divorce, this arrangement allows the designated parent the authority to make all encompassing financial decisions. But the conservatorship’s reach extends beyond mere financial matters.

The conservator also determines the child’s living arrangements, maintains control over medical decisions, and orchestrates the child’s healthcare. The conservator even has the power to dictate the educational decisions for the child.

Given the singular nature of this conservatorship, only one parent can attain this authority post-divorce. So, if you aspire to singularly shape the critical life decisions for your child following a divorce, Sole Managing Conservatorship might be a suitable choice for you. This critical responsibility is a considerable undertaking that warrants serious consideration and understanding.

Emergency Guardianship and Emergency Conservatorship

Guardianship and conservatorship normally require a lengthy legal process to ensure that the rights of all people are protected. However, the court acknowledges that in some cases, time is of the essence and that a guardian must be appointed as soon as possible. In these cases, special circumstances justify approving an emergency guardian quickly.

To ensure a thorough examination of each guardianship/conservatorship case, the guardianship process usually takes months. If you are worried that this is not a realistic timeline because the ward requires immediate attention, you can express that there are special circumstances in your filing for guardianship or conservatorship. 

An emergency appointment may not be permanent, but it is a good way to make sure that the immediate needs of your loved one are being taken care of.

If you become an emergency guardian or conservator for someone your rights will only last a short time. This non-permanence is to protect the ward from being exploited. You can request to extend your guardianship when the emergency period is up, but you will have to show evidence to the court that the ward still requires an emergency guardian/conservator while a permanent filing is being carried out.

The ward is typically given a 24-hour notice before the emergency hearing, but this can be waived in severe cases. If death or financial harm is imminent, an immediate filing may be your best option. 

Which Special Circumstances Necessitate an Emergency Guardianship?

The circumstances necessary for an emergency guardian revolve around negative impending events and possible injury. When would an emergency hearing take place? 

  • Immediate bodily harm is one of the most compelling reasons for emergency guardianship. If the person in question could cause self-harm, or if they are living in an unsafe environment, a judge may grant an emergency hearing. 
  • If a person needs to be removed from their current situation to avoid some kind of bodily harm, an emergency guardianship may be applied. 
  • If financial crimes are imminent and the person is unable to protect themselves, an emergency conservatorship may be granted. 
  • If someone is being abused, this is another consideration of the courts. If the ward is being abused, guardianship can be a way to get them out of the abusive situation. If the ward is living with their abuser, an emergency guardianship can get them out of harm’s way. 
  • If someone has dementia, Alzheimer’s, or another type of condition which requires them to be relocated immediately, an emergency guardianship may be necessary.

How Can Professional Document Preparers Help?

Again, Senior Planning cannot offer legal advice, but unless you are experienced in probate court, it can be an extremely complicated process. To prevent delays, mistakes should be avoided at all costs, but because of the amount of paperwork and time involved in each filing, many people unintentionally commit errors. 

You want to be able to present the best possible case, as well as paperwork, to the judge at your first hearing. Being forced to reschedule a hearing because of errors, omissions, or sloppiness will most likely delay your case for months. We understand that legal costs are high, which is why Senior Planning offers an affordable alternative to an attorney. Request information below and one of our agents will be glad to tell you how we can help.