How Do Guardianship Laws in Arizona Work?

If you have a disabled adult in your life that needs a guardian, you will need to go through the courts to legally establish guardianship.  You go through the Maricopa County Superior Court, which has several locations throughout the valley.  You will also need to prove that the adult needs a guardian.  You need to show a judge that the adult, (called a “ward” in guardianship cases), is incapacitated in some way that prevents him or her from being able to make or communicate decisions regarding his or her care.  Some examples of situations leading to an adult needing a guardian are:  a physical disability, autism, Down Syndrome, a mental disorder, or other debilitating situation.  If the court appoints a guardian, the guardian may obtain mental and physical healthcare for the disabled adult.  This includes all types of health care, living arrangements, treatment options, services etc.  The goal is to be sure to look out for the disabled adult’s best interest.

The proposed guardian must meet state-established requirements.  The guardian must be 18 years or older.  It is much easier to become a guardian if you are also related to the disabled adult.  A proposed guardian must also be willing to take on the responsibilities of serving as guardian and be legally responsible for the care of the disabled adult once the guardianship is established.

How to Get Guardianship of a Disabled Adult in Arizona?

The first step to obtaining guardianship of a disabled adult is to file a petition with the court.  A petition is a notarized document that lays out specific facts regarding the disabled adult’s inability to make decisions for him or herself.  The petition discusses the adult’s diagnosis, ability to drive, ability to vote and the reasons why a guardianship is in the adult’s best interest.  Along with the petition, the proposed guardian files an affidavit that focuses on the guardian’s criminal history as well as involvement in prior guardianships.  A doctor’s report, prepared by the disabled adult’s doctor, is also filed.

If you are not a state licensed fiduciary, (i.e. act as a guardian in a professional capacity), the state of Arizona requires a proposed guardian to take a training course.  This course is designed to educate people who have chosen to be guardians on their roles and responsibilities.  The training takes about 30-45 minutes and is well worth the time.

Finding an Attorney for Guardianship of a Disabled Adult

A guardian is responsible for the disabled adult’s daily living.  The guardian can also be in charge of the governmental benefits that the disabled adult receives.  Guardians are often the payee for Supplemental Social Security, for example.  If a disabled adult has more money than just the Supplemental Social Security, a conservator may be appointed to manage the money and finances.  A conservatorship is than a guardianship and as such has a different set of responsibilities.

When you are seeking to be appointed as a guardian, you should strongly consider hiring a legal expert to guide you through this process.  When looking for an attorney to assist you with obtaining guardianship of a disabled adult, you should look for several important characteristics.

  1. Experience: An experienced attorney will be able to help you through every step of the process and assist you in streamlining wherever possible.  While no two cases are ever the same, years of experience will allow your attorney to help foresee any potential issues ahead of time and save you headaches and money.
  2. Attentiveness: An attorney that is going to effectively assist you needs to give you his or her undivided attention and listen to the information that you present.  Your loved one and the circumstances of the situation are important and should be treated as such.
  3. Communication: An important companion to attentiveness is strong communication.  This may be a challenging time for you and your family and it is important that your attorney keep an open flow of communication throughout this process to help effectively manage the process and minimize unnecessary stress.

If you are faced with the task of being appointed as a guardian for a disabled adult, please give me a call.  I can help you through the process of obtaining guardianship as efficiently and painlessly as possible.