How Guardianship Works in Arizona for Children & Families

Updated

Guardianship is something many families don’t think about until it’s too late. While it can sound intimidating, it’s important to take steps in advance to make sure you’re protected no matter what. 

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A guardian is appointed by the court to make decisions about another’s healthcare, housing, property, and assets. As you age and your life changes, so will your guardianship concerns. 

If you have minor children, then you may be wondering if you need to choose a guardian for them while you are doing your end-of-life planning. If you have older loved ones that are having challenges meeting their own needs, then you may be wondering if they need a guardian. 

No matter where you are in your life, if you live in Arizona then this article is for you. Read on as we discuss guardianship in Arizona.

What Types of Guardianship Exist in Arizona?

There are different types of guardians, including guardians for minors and guardians for  incapicitated adults. The person for whom a guardian is appointed is called a ward. These guardianships vary based on duration as well as whether they are for a minor or adult. The main types of guardianships in Arizona will be discussed in more detail below.

Who Are the Default Guardians for Minor Children, Older Adults, or Adults With Special Needs in Arizona?

It’s not always clear who qualifies as a ‘default’ guardian in Arizona. In fact, guardians are appointed by the court. As such, there are no default guardians in Arizona. Generally, parents are responsible for the care and custody of their minor children. 

Additionally, older adults and adults with special needs are considered adults. This means that as adults they are considered responsible for their own healthcare, housing, property, and assets. In order for an adult to have a guardian, someone must petition the court to be appointed their guardian. 

While there is no default guardian, in Arizona courts may give a preference to family members when appointing a guardian. However, a guardian can be almost any adult who is willing to take on the role. 

In order to qualify to be considered for appointment as someone’s guardian, the individual must be an adult and swear that they:

  • Have never been convicted of a felony
  • Have never been removed as a guardian for a wrongdoing
  • Understand the responsibilities of being a guardian

What Forms Do You Need to File for Guardianship in Arizona?

In Arizona, the forms that you need to file for guardianship vary based on the person for whom you are applying for guardianship. You’ll find these forms online or at your local courthouse. 

Guardianship for an incapacitated adult

If you want to be appointed as guardian for an incapacitated adult in Arizona, then you will need to file a number of forms with the Superior Court in the county where the adult lives. These forms include the following:

  • Petition for appointment of guardian of an adult
  • Guardianship cover sheet
  • Affidavit of person to be appointed guardian
  • Guardianship information sheet
  • Consent and waiver
  • Healthcare professional’s report
  • Letters of appointment and acceptance of letters
  • Order of appointment of a permanent guardian

When you file forms with the court you should check with the Office of the Clerk of the Court regarding the number of copies the court requires. If you need assistance, you should contact an experienced guardianship attorney who can answer your questions and guide you through the process. 

Guardianship for minors

If you want to be appointed as a guardian for a minor, then you need to file the following paperwork with the appropriate court:

  • Probate information form for guardianship
  • Petition for appointment of guardian of a minor
  • Affidavit of person to be appointed guardian
  • Consent of parent to guardianship (and waiver of notice)
  • Consent of minor to guardianship (and waiver of notice)—required for all minors age 14 or older
  • Declaration of completion of training for non-licensed fiduciaries

Before you go through the paperwork process, you should keep in mind that “if either parent files papers opposing a guardianship, it will NOT be granted.” Additionally, if the proposed guardian is not related by blood to the minor child, they must complete the fingerprint process to get a criminal record check.

Temporary or emergency appointments of guardians for an adult or minor

If you want to be appointed as a temporary or emergency guardian for an adult or minor, then you need to file the following forms with appropriate court:

  • Petition for appointment of temporary guardian. If this is a petition for an adult, then you may need to include a doctor report.
  • Notice of hearing on appointment of a temporary guardian
  • Order appointing temporary guardian
  • Letters of appointment of temporary guardian and acceptance of appointment
  • Order to guardians
  • If necessary, you may also need to complete the paperwork for a permanent order as discussed above

How Do You File for Guardianship in Arizona?

You file for guardianship in Arizona by qualifying as a guardian, filing the appropriate forms in the appropriate court, and completing training. Each court has its own requirements regarding the number of forms that must be filed. Generally, the appropriate court will be the court where the proposed ward resides. 

Guardianship training

In Arizona, non-licensed fiduciaries (such as family members) must complete training before letters to serve as guardian are issued. The only exception to this rule is for an appointment made because an emergency existed. In those instances the fiduciary must “complete the training program within thirty days of the appointment or before the permanent appointment of the fiduciary, whichever is earlier.”

After guardianship training, the guardian should be able to do the following:

  • Summarize the major responsibilities of being a guardian
  • Compare and contrast the roles of guardian and parent
  • Explain the difference between best interest and substituted judgment
  • Discuss the difficulties involving making decisions for the ward

If you have any questions about filing for guardianship in Arizona, you should contact a guardianship attorney licensed to practice in Arizona.

How Do You Assign a Guardian for a Minor Child in Arizona?

In Arizona, a person can become a guardian for a minor child in one of two ways:

  • Acceptance of a testamentary appointment (via will)
  • Appointment by the court

In Arizona, a testamentary appointment is when a parent of a minor child appoints a guardian by will. This appointment is effective when the guardian accepts the appointment in the court where the will is probated. 

How Guardianship Works for Minor Children

In Arizona, a minor generally needs a guardian if “the minor needs the care and supervision of an adult, and that care and supervision is not presently available.” A guardian may apply for one of the following types of guardianship: 

  • Emergency temporary guardianship
  • Temporary guardianship
  • Permanent guardianship

Emergency temporary guardianship

Emergency temporary guardianship of a minor in Arizona can be granted by the court by filing the appropriate paperwork. In the paperwork, the proposed guardian must explain why the temporary appointment is necessary. This is very temporary (usually just for 30 days) and may initially be granted without notice to the parents. 

Temporary guardianship

Temporary guardianship lasts no longer than six months. A temporary guardianship may be appropriate where the minor needs a guardian for a set period of time or an emergency requires the immediate appointment of a guardian.

Permanent guardianship

In Arizona, the court may establish a permanent guardianship between a child and the guardian if “the prospective guardianship is in the child's best interests” and certain statutory requirements are met. 

A guardian is responsible for the ward’s support, care, and education. 

If you are pursuing guardianship of a minor child, you may want to consult with a guardianship attorney who can answer your questions and guide you through the process.

How Guardianship Works for Older Adults

In Arizona, there are two main types of guardianship: limited guardianship and full guardianship. In a limited guardianship, the guardian only manages some of the affairs of the adult. In a full guardianship, as the name suggests, the guardian manages all of the affairs of the adult. 

In Arizona, an older adult is still considered an adult, and thus capable of managing their own affairs. However, a proposed guardian may apply for guardianship of an older adult if they are incapacitated as defined by Arizona law. This means that the adult “lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions” concerning their person because of one or more of the following:

  • Mental illness
  • Mental deficiency
  • Mental disorder
  • Physical illness or disability
  • Chronic use of drugs
  • Chronic intoxication
  • Other cause

Just as with minor children, a guardian may apply for one of the following types of guardianship: 

  • Emergency temporary guardianship
  • Temporary guardianship
  • Permanent guardianship

Emergency temporary guardianship

As discussed above, emergency temporary guardianship is very temporary.

Temporary guardianship

Also as discussed above, a temporary guardian is granted for a limited period of time and may be granted in limited or emergency circumstances.

Permanent guardianship

In Arizona, the court may establish a permanent guardianship between a proposed guardian and a proposed ward. The guardian is responsible for the ward’s support and care. The guardianship will continue until it is terminated.

How Guardianship Works for Adults With Developmental Disabilities or Special Needs

In Arizona, if the individual is an adult, then they are generally considered capable of managing their own affairs. Just as discussed in the previous section on older adults, a proposed guardian may apply for guardianship of an adult with developmental disabilities or special needs if they are incapacitated as defined by Arizona law.

Arizona law does have a special provision for incapacitated minors approaching adulthood. In Arizona, an interested guardian “of a minor who is at least seventeen years six months of age and who is alleged to be incapacitated may initiate guardianship proceedings” and “request that any guardianship order take effect immediately on the minor's eighteenth birthday.”

Keep in mind that a person is not deemed incapacitated simply because someone says so. The alleged incapicated person has court hearing rights. Additionally, the court will assign an attorney, investigator, and medical examiner as needed. 

The types of guardianship available for adults with developmental disabilities or special needs are the same as discussed in the previous section and include: emergency temporary guardianship, temporary guardianship, and permanent guardianship.

Frequently Asked Questions: Guardianship in Arizona

Guardianship may be appropriate in a variety of circumstances. Each situation raises its own questions. Below we will answer frequently asked questions about guardianship in Arizona.

How long is temporary guardianship in Arizona?

In Arizona, a temporary guardianship for an adult and/or minor child is not longer than six months. 

What’s the difference between guardianship, conservatorship, and custody in Arizona?

In Arizona, guardianship, conservatorship, and custody are generally used to describe the relationship between a responsible, adult person and either a minor child or an incapicitated person.

A guardianship grants the guardian the legal authority to care for the other person. The guardian can make decisions about the other person’s housing, medical care, legal issues, and other matters. 

Conversely, a conservatorship is only concerned with the other person’s financials. The conservator is appointed by the court to manage the other person’s financial affairs. The person who’s financial affairs are being managed is called a protected person.

Custody generally refers to a parent’s legal right to make decisions about the care and welfare of their child. In Arizona, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody means the parent has the right to make major decisions regarding the child’s care and welfare. Physical custody refers to where the child lives. 

Can you get guardianship without going to court in Arizona?

A guardian is appointed by the court. This means that you must go to court to get guardianship. While you can take steps to limit the court process (creating a will, guardianship plan, etc.), the court is still a necessary step. 

Start your guardianship planning today

If you are done enjoying your delicious Arizona wine, then now is the best time to start your guardianship planning. Schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney today to discuss your wishes.

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