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Frequently Asked Questions
Guardianship/Conservatorship - Starting the process...
An individual or an entity, like a private fiduciary, may serve as guardian of a minor or of an incapacitated adult. In addition, the court can appoint the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary to act as guardian for an incapacitated adult. The Public Fiduciary generally does not act as guardian for a minor.
A guardian has powers and responsibilities similar to those of a parent, making personal decisions for the ward as it relates to living arrangements, education, social activities, and authorization or withholding of medical or other professional care, treatment, or advice. A guardian must always make decisions that are in the best interests of the ward and ensure that the ward is living in the least restrictive environment in which the ward can remain safe.
In the context of a case before the Superior Court, a guardian must submit a written report to the court annually on the date of the guardian's appointment. The report must include information on the health and living conditions of the ward and a current physician's report.
A conservator has the powers and responsibilities of a fiduciary, dealing with the assets and property of another, keeping detailed and accurate records of all of the financial information of the protected person.
In the context of a case before the Superior Court, a conservator must file an inventory of the estate of the protected person, and file a regular accounting of the administration of the estate that accurately reflects every financial transaction that occurred during the accounting period.
While an attorney, especially one experienced in handling Probate matters, may be helpful in navigating the process, one is not required to represent the person filing the case and our self-service packets provide many of the basic instructions necessary to file your case from start to finish.
If you wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing, you may be eligible for a free consultation through the Probate Lawyers Assistance Project.
Please note that the attorney requirement is different in Guardianship and Conservatorship cases, where there is a legal requirement for an attorney to be appointed to represent the proposed ward/protected person. After filing the case and setting the hearing, the Petitioner may be directed the Office of Public Defense Services to ask for the appointment of an attorney for the proposed ward/protected person.
Many of the forms, from those you can file to start the case to those forms you may be required to file throughout the life of the case can be found through our Law Library Resource Center's website.
If you don't have access to a computer, these same forms are available in paper format at any one of the Law Library Resource Center's physical locations.
You can file at at any one of the Superior Court's locations.
Please note that where you file does not dictate where your case will be assigned. Your case's assignment is determined by the zip code of either the filing party, or the filing party's attorney. For a complete list of zip codes and their judicial district assignment, refer to Superior Court Administrative Order 2015-015.
Most likely, yes, and a complete schedule of fees is available through the Clerk of Court's website.
If you believe you qualify, you can also request that any fees be either waived or deferred. If a waiver is granted, that means that you will not owe any balance for any of the fees that were waived by the order. If a deferral is granted, that means that you will still have to pay the fees due, but at a later date upon notice from the Clerk of Court.
After your Petition is filed, you can obtain a hearing one of two ways:
- Visit any one of the Court's locations, and see the Probate Calendaring Clerk.
- Be sure to bring at least three copies of your Petition and any other supplemental paperwork you may have.
- Call 602-506-3668, and select the option to schedule a hearing.
How far out your hearing is set may differ depending on the type of case you are filing, but may range from 2 to 8 weeks out.
If you have filed for an Emergency appointment, there is a possibility your Petition may be heard sooner, but that decision is made by the assigned Judge/Commissioner on a case-by-case basis.
Yes, a $300.00 account review filing fee is due at time of filing.
By rule, the first account period is from the date of issuance of Letters (temporary or permanent) to the end of the ninth month after the issuance of the permanent Letters. For example, if appointed temporary conservator on 01-01-2010 and appointed permanent conservator on 03-01-2010, the first account period would be from 01-01-2010 (Letters issued) through 12-31-2010 (9th month AFTER permanent appointment). Review the Court's minute entry issued on the Petition to Appoint Conservator to see if the Court otherwise ordered a different account period.
After the first account period has been approved by the Court, the subsequent account period start date will be the day after the approved end date of the prior account period. The end date of the subsequent account period will be the day before the start date, 1-year later. For example, start date is 02-01-2010 and end date is 01-31-2011.
The Account period begins on the next date after the last date of the immediately prior Account and ends on the date of death of the Protected Person or the date on which the Conservatorship is otherwise terminated.
The Account is due 90 days after the end of the Account period.
When you file an accounting at the filing counter, the packet should contain the Petition for Approval of the Accounting, Conservator Account Form, itemized transaction log, fiduciary and attorney fee statements, and the proposed form of Order. At the same time of filing, a duplicate copy of the aforementioned documents, along with the financial account statements, should be provided to the Court Accountant's office. Do not provide a copy of the accounting to the judicial officer at this time.
The Account should include bank or financial institution statements that include the ending date of the Account and support the ending cash and investment account balances found in Schedule 2 of the Account. If there are reconciling items between the bank account statement and the balance shown in the Account, the Petitioner should reconcile the balance in the statement to the balance in the Account (ARPP 30 B 1). The Account should also include support for large transactions (especially those specifically approved by the Court). This might include, for example, a closing statement associated with the sale of a parcel of real estate owned by the Estate.
Read each point of concern and the related recommendation by the Court Accountant. Do your best to provide the recommended response to each of the concerns within the timeframe. File an original response at the filing counter, and provide a complete copy of the response for the Court Accountant's office.
You can file for termination of the Conservatorship at any time. The Court may continue your responsibilities until a successor is found or until it determines that the Conservatorship is no longer needed. The Court will determine that a Conservatorship is no longer needed when there are no or very limited assets remaining in the Estate (e.g., if the Protected Person should qualify for ALTCS which requires that assets be limited to less than $2,000).
Before you can use the Simplified Form 9, YOU MUST GET APPROVAL OF THE COURT. This format will generally be approved when income and expenses are recurring and easy to understand (e.g., an Estate that involves primarily the collection of monthly retirement income and payment of a monthly care facility bill and for which assets are relatively limited). You must apply to get permission to use this form before you use it for the first time, unless the Court permits it in an Order that it issues without Petition from the Conservator.
You are required to file an amended budget if the change in any line items is greater than $2,000 or more than 10% of a budgeted line item. A form for filing an amended budget is found at: Amended Budget form.
Unfortunately, the Court Accountants are barred from talking with any Conservator about the facts of an individual case. You can file a request for clarification with the Court along with a copy to the Court Accountant. The Court Accountant will respond with a filed document that attempts to clarify concerns.
The Court may require you to Record your Letters of Appointment because they contain certain restrictions on the Conservator that must be made public knowledge through what is known in the law as "constructive notice". Constructive notice is obtained legally by properly recording a document with the Maricopa County Recorder's Office.
Regardless of whether you are required to Record your Letters of Appointment or not, it is a good idea to do so. Doing so provides notice to creditors that the Protected Person cannot take on debt and that all dealings of the Estate must be performed by the Conservator. Since the Conservator is ultimately responsible for all that goes on in an Estate after their appointment, it is clear that this notice is critical. The Court has encountered instances where the Protected Person found a way to take out a mortgage on an inherited home (free and clear) without the knowledge of the Conservator. Since the Conservator did not approve the transaction, the Protected Person was not liable for funds that they were not able to repay from the funds received from the lender (funds already spent). If notice was not provided, the Conservator might be deemed to be liable for the actions of his/her Ward.
It is also helpful to consider freezing the Protected Person's credit with a credit reporting agency so that the Protected Person, or an individual who might choose to inappropriately use their identity (identity theft), will not be able to readily do so. Inappropriate transactions initiated by the Protected Person and identity theft can cause significant issues in an Estate and may result in undue work for the Conservator.
Formal and Informal Probate FAQ
With a Formal Probate, a petition is filed and a hearing is set with a Judicial Officer. However, with an Informal Probate, an application is filed and reviewed/approved by a Registrar.
That would depend on if you qualify to file an Informal. The main reasons to file a formal would be if you only had a copy of the Will, if you knew it was going to be contested, or if you want an Adjudication of Heirs.
We do not have forms or instructions for this. We would refer you to an attorney, paralegal, document preparer or to the Law Library to look through the Probate Practice Manual.
You would have to ask the Judicial Officer.
All paperwork is submitted to the file counter clerk. The Registrar will review the paperwork within 72 hours and either approve or reject your paperwork. If approved, the file counter clerk will then issue a case number and finish processing the documents. If rejected, a reject slip explaining all deficiencies will be attached to the paperwork.
That would be your decision based on what is in the estate and how it is titled up. Arizona does not require all estates to be probated, so it would depend on what the decedent owned in his/her name solely on whether a probate is necessary or not.
That would be your decision based on what is in the estate. Once you know what is in the estate that needs probate, look to see if you qualify for the small estate/Affidavit process or if you need to do the Informal appointment.
No, we only take Wills that are being probated. If you have a Will that does not need to be probated, we advise the customer to place it in a safe place just in case it is needed at a later date.
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