Guardianship / Conservatorship

Legal Decision Making

My mother keeps getting her medications mixed up. Unfortunately, the doctor’s office won’t speak to me to clear things up! My brother’s bank will not talk to me without him present. But he is in a care facility!

Whether due to age, illness, disability, or accident, incapacity can happen to anyone. By planning ahead, you can provide the legal tools to enable your loved ones to more easily help and protect you. Unfortunately, if you wait until you actually need help or protection, your options may be much more limited and complicated due to incapacity.

More common…

Vulnerability: Easily susceptible to the influence of others, perhaps due to age, mental impairment, or illness.

Less common…

Incapacity: When you are unable to make your own personal/medical decisions or manage your finances due to a physical or mental condition.

Planning Ahead

With the use of legal documents, such as Powers of Attorney and trusts, you may appoint someone to assist you with decisions or to make decisions for you when you cannot. They may also help protect you from yourself or exploitation, if you should become incapacitated or vulnerable. In that event, these steps are intended to avoid any court involvement.

Guardianship / Conservatorship

Whether vulnerable or incapacitated, you will still need protection!


In Arizona, after a finding of legal incapacity, a guardian is appointed by a court to make personal, medical, and educational decisions for an incapacitated adult. The Ward, as they are called, no longer has that decision-making authority. A guardian may also serve as the Ward’s Social Security Representative Payee.


A conservator may be required if an adult in need of protection has assets or income of significant value (beyond Social Security or Veteran’s income).

Protected Person (Conservatorship) / Ward (Guardianship). The person you are attempting to protect.

Court – Commissioner. The judge or commissioner.

Court Investigator. Assigned by the Court to interview the Ward and Petitioner. Prepares a report for the Court with recommendations.

Court-Appointed Attorney. Represents the Ward/Protected Person.

Petitioner. Files with the Court to commence a guardianship and/or conservatorship matter. May also be the one nominated to become the guardian and/or conservator for the Ward. (May have own attorney)

Interested Parties. Includes the Ward’s spouse, parents, children, or nearest kin; must receive notice of the court proceedings.

Guardian Ad Litem. Attorney who represents best interests of the Ward, if the Court determines it is necessary.

Appointment of Guardian / Conservator Timeline

  • Report from medical professional
  • Bond Application (if conservatorship)
  • Prepare and file court papers (obtain hearing dates)
  • Obtain Court-Appointed Attorney for Ward

Ward Has three visitors:

  • Personal Service of Notice of Hearing
  • Court Investigator
  • Court-Appointed Attorney
  • Non-emergency initial hearing scheduled 6-8 weeks out on average
  • Court Appoints Guardian and Conservator
  • More hearings if contested
  • Obtain and file proof of bond (if applicable)
  • Obtain Letters of Guardian and Conservator (your proof of authority)
  • Conservator files Inventory, Budget, Sustainability Report
  • Guardian Report
  • Conservator Accounting

Note, parents may commence the guardianship process for their incapacitated child as early as when the child reaches age 17 1⁄2, to become effective on the date the child reaches age 18.

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