A court-appointed guardian is needed when a person is physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves. Parents of children with disabilities need to go through this process when their minor child is about to turn 18 in order to continue caring for them once they become legal adults. Your child is known as the protected person and the ward.
A guardian is appointed by the court and is responsible for ensuring that the best interests of the child are met. This means providing suitable living arrangements and providing food and clothing. A guardian may also make decisions regarding further education, social activities, and administering or withholding healthcare for their child.
Overview of the Process
In Arizona, there are several steps that must be completed before you can serve as a guardian over your child.
First, you must prepare paperwork to petition the court for guardianship. There are a number of documents you must prepare:
- The petition for guardianship, which includes information regarding the potential guardian and their relationship to the ward and information regarding the ward
- 7 other documents that accompany the petition,
- A health professional’s report, and
- Orders for the judge to sign
Second, once you file the papers, there is a mandatory 45-day waiting period before the court hearing. During this period, you will need to take a one-hour mandatory online training regarding your responsibilities as a guardian as well as have the papers served on your child. You need to do this even if your child will not understand the paperwork.
During this period, you and your child will meet or talk with a court investigator. The court investigator will file a report with the judge saying whether a guardianship is needed and if it is, whether you are the right person to be guardian. This is a way to make sure that no one is taking advantage of your child.
In addition, the court will appoint an attorney for the adult ward. This is another way to ensure that the legal protections and interests of the ward are being met.
Third, you will attend the hearing, which is typically a short and informal procedure. During the hearing, you will review your duties and responsibilities as guardian, which include making sure that the person you are caring for is safe and healthy.
Once the judge approves the guardianship and signs the court orders, you will receive letters officially appointing you as your child’s guardian. I recommend that people keep these documents with them at all times. They are proof that you have the legal authority to act on your adult child’s behalf.
Finally, you will be required to submit a written report to the court each year on the anniversary of the guardianship approval. This written report will include details regarding the health and living conditions of your ward.
You may be able to avoid a court ordered guardianship if your child has sufficient mental capacity to sign power of attorney documents. This means that your child must be able to understand the purpose and nature of the documents.
Differences Between a Guardian and a Conservator
Arizona separates the responsibilities of court-ordered guardians and court-ordered conservators.
A guardian is required to care for their wards the same way a parent cares for a minor child, providing shelter, food, and medical care. Guardians may handle some financial affairs, such as being the payee for the ward’s Social Security benefits.
A conservator has different duties and responsibilities. This person is in charge of the ward’s financial affairs. If a ward has more than $10,000-$15,000 in assets, a conservatorship may be necessary.
This article does not provide legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship. It is for informational purposes only. If you have questions regarding Arizona guardianship law and procedures, please contact me today.