What is a Guardianship?

An Arizona guardianship is a legal proceeding involving the judicial appointment of a person (or company) to provide care and to make personal decisions for a minor (juvenile) or an incapacitated person, whether a minor or an adult. The person for whom a guardian is appointed is called the “ward.”

Guardianship is a legal relationship between the guardian and the ward. The disability or condition creating the need for a guardianship may be caused by youth (minority) mental illness, developmental disability, age, accident or other causes. A developmental disability or mental illness is not, by itself sufficient reason to declare someone incompetent. And, a person may not be declared incompetent simply because it saves someone money or because the disabled person acts or uses personal money in ways that seem odd to someone else.

Competency has to do with a person’s ability to make “responsible or informed decisions” concerning the person’s health, living conditions or personal affairs.

How to Choose a Guardian

If you are permitted to select an individual to serve as guardian, first consider those who play a significant role in the person’s life. The guardian should be someone who is both aware of and sensitive to the ward’s needs and preferences. Consider someone who has the time, the temperament and the perseverance to serve as guardian.  It is very important to remember that guardianship is a legal relationship in which one person places trust and confidence in the capability, integrity and fidelity of another.

How is a Guardian Appointed?

A guardian may be nominated by a Last Will & Testament, or by any interested party who files a petition with the court for appointment of a guardian. An incapacitated person, or any person interested in the welfare of an incapacitated person, may petition for a finding of incapacity and appointment of a guardian.

Notice of the time and place of the hearing is given to the potential ward and other persons specified by statute.

The ward may be, and usually is, represented by counsel. On a hearing to determine incapacity, a visitor and physician must be appointed and report to the court after interviewing the potential ward. A visitor is a person trained in law, nursing or social work and is an officer, employee or special appointee of the court with no special interest in the proceedings.

In certain circumstances, the court may appoint a temporary guardian for a specific purpose and for a specified time period.

What Are the Duties of a Guardian?

A legal guardian has powers and responsibilities similar to that of a parent toward a child. The guardian may make personal decisions for the ward such as living arrangements, medical care and treatment, education, social activities, and authorization or withholding of medical or other professional care.

An Arizona guardian must submit a written report to the court annually on the date of the appointment as guardian, on the resignation or removal of the guardian, or on termination of the ward’s minority or disability.

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