What's The Difference Between a Guardianship vs. Conservatorship in Arizona?

In Arizona, as in many other jurisdictions, there's a distinction between guardianship and conservatorship, each serving a specific purpose but sometimes overlapping responsibilities. Both roles assist individuals who cannot manage their affairs due to incapacitation, but the scope of their duties differs.

When is a Guardian Appointed?

A guardian in Arizona is appointed by the court to manage an incapacitated person's personal affairs, such as physical health, personal care, and living arrangements. The role primarily revolves around ensuring the individual's safety, comfort, and well-being. 

This may include making decisions such as:

  • healthcare treatments
  • daily routines
  • living environments
  • social interactions

An incapacitated person in this context could be an elderly individual suffering from a debilitating condition like dementia, an adult incapacitated due to an accident, or someone with a severe mental illness. Guardianship does not necessarily encompass handling the individual's finances unless specifically stated by the court order.

Petitioning for Guardianship in Arizona

Title 14 of the Arizona Revised Statutes outlines everything about guardianships and conservatorships. These laws specify who can apply to become a guardian or conservator, the application process, and what these roles entail. The laws also include measures to protect the rights and property of the adult who can't manage their affairs. The appointed guardian could be a relative, a professional fiduciary, or someone the individual had previously nominated in writing.

If a parent is the guardian of an adult child who can't manage their affairs, they can specify in their will who should become the guardian when they die. But other family members can challenge this and ask the court to decide who fits the role best. When a spouse is a guardian, they can use their will to determine who will take over guardianship, but other family members can contest this.

Usually, a court appoints a guardian, and it's a complex process. The process is designed to protect the rights of individual who needs help managing their affairs, and it's laid out in A.R.S. § 14-5303. Anyone interested can apply to be a guardian by submitting a petition to the court in the county where the individual lives. 

This petition needs detailed information, such as: 

  • Why the person wants to be a guardian 
  • The nearest living relative's name
  • A list of the individual's property and value
  • Why do they believe a guardian is needed

The Hearing Process for Guardianship in Arizona

Once the court gets a guardianship petition, it schedules a hearing. The court also assigns a lawyer to represent the person (unless they have an attorney) and appoints an investigator to interview them and report back. If the person doesn't have a personal doctor or psychiatrist, the court will select one to examine them. The doctor or nurse then submits a report to the court with their opinion on whether a guardian is necessary and whether the person is incapacitated. The judge then decides if a guardian is needed and the person who applied is suitable.

Before someone can become a guardian or a conservator, they must provide an affidavit - a written statement made under oath - confirming whether they have a felony conviction, explaining their relationship to the proposed ward and whether they have ever been removed from being a guardian or conservator. It's crucial that you speak with an attorney about all the required information that must be included in the affidavit.

When is a Conservator Appointed?

Conversely, a conservator is appointed by the court to manage an incapacitated person's financial matters. This individual, referred to as a protected person, may be capable of taking care of their personal needs but unable to manage their finances. The conservator's duties typically involve handling the protected person's financial assets, income, and expenses. 

Responsibilities can range from paying bills and managing investments to dealing with complex estate matters. It's important to note that while a conservator focuses on financial matters, they may occasionally be called upon to make personal decisions for the protected person, depending on the specific circumstances and court directives.

Establishing a Conservatorship in Arizona

In Arizona, a conservator is similar to a trustee of an estate and is appointed to manage the financial affairs of a person who can't do it themselves due to illness, addiction, or absence. The court decides who needs a conservator based on the individual's ability to manage their assets. The conservator can be a family member, a bank, or a financial entity.

Applying to be a conservator requires fingerprinting and a background check. The application must include information about the person in question, why the applicant wants to be a conservator, and details about the assets that need protection. If the person doesn't have an attorney, then the court assigns a lawyer to the person and may order a health examination and an interview with an investigator. 

Once a conservator is appointed, they are monitored by the court. They may need to provide a bond equal to the value of the person's assets, which can be used to repay the person if the conservator mismanages their estate. Conservators can request payment for their services, which the court determines.

Within three months of their appointment, the conservator must submit a detailed inventory of the person's assets to the court. They must also submit an annual report on all activity related to the assets. A conservatorship can be ended if the person recovers and can manage their finances or if the conservator passes away. The court can appoint a substitute if the conservator can no longer fulfill their role.

 Contact a Guardianship and Conservatorship Attorney in Chandler

The distinction between guardianship and conservatorship in Arizona lies in the sphere of responsibility each covers, though there might be specific scenarios where these roles overlap. The precise nature of duties for a guardian or a conservator can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances and the court's directives. An experienced attorney can help explain legal information and guide you in making important decisions. 

The Williams Law Office serves the areas of Chandler and the other regions around Maricopa County. With over 23 years of experience, attorney Peter Williams is eager to learn more about your case. Contact Peter Williams today and schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help you.

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Legal Disclaimer

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. The Attorneys Office's legal team is licensed to practice law in Arizona. We invite you to contact us, but please be aware that contacting us does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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