Probate and Mental Health

At any given time, there are more than 20,000 active and/or pending probate cases in Maricopa County, with more than 500 new cases being filed each month.  While the term “probate” typically refers to the establishment of the validity of a will, judges and commissioners assigned to the Probate and Mental Health Department oversee a broad variety of case types in addition to decedents’ estates; including guardianships, conservatorships, adult adoptions, and mental health matters pursuant to a Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation or Petition for Court Ordered Treatment.

Judges and Commissioners assigned to the Probate and Mental Health Department oversee over 9,000 active guardianship cases, over $500 million in conservatorship assets, and over 3,000 active orders for treatment.

Glossary of Common Terms

Provided is a listing of court related terms, defined to help you with the filing of your forms, or just a better understanding of details relating to your case.  To locate your definition, click on the initial letter of the word or phrase you are searching for.

Also available is our Probate Frequently Asked Questions and Mental Health Frequently Asked Questions sections.

Probate Forms

Court staff cannot give legal advice.  However, if you need legal advice or help filling out forms, please visit the Legal Resource Section.

You may also be eligible to receive a FREE consultation with a volunteer attorney through the Probate Lawyers Assistance Project (PLAP).

Mental Health

Mental Health proceedings are overseen by the courts at Valleywise Health's Behavioral Health Centers in Mesa, Phoenix, and Maryvale, at the Arizona State Hospital, and downtown court complex.  These proceedings include hearings on Petitions for Court-Ordered Evaluation, Court-Ordered Treatment, Annual Reviews, and Judicial Reviews.

Visit our Mental Health Frequently Asked Questions section for more information about the Mental Health process. 


A guardian is someone who has the legal authority to make decisions about another person's care (e.g., health care and treatment, placement, etc.).

conservator is someone who has the legal authority to make decisions about another person's finances and financial affairs.

Formal/Informal Probate

Informal probate refers to those estates where the will is uncontested.  This method rarely involves a Judge or Commissioner.  If there is a dispute amongst the heirs, or the validity of the will, proceeding with the formal probate process may be necessary.

Formal probate is when the requirements for an informal probate are not satisfied and a Judge or Commissioner is needed to resolve any disputes.

Adult Adoptions

Adult Adoption proceedings exist for those situations in which one adult person wishes to adopt another adult person, formalizing the relationship of parent and child, with all parties consenting to this legal adoption.

For more information, please review the Adult Adoption forms and procedures.

Probate and Mental Health   Presiding Judge
Dean M. Fink

Keith B. Kaplan
Probate and Mental Health Administrator
Contact Probate and Mental Health

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