Guardianship/Conservatorship Frequently Asked Questions

Guardianship/Conservatorship - Starting the process...

Any qualified person may be appointed as a guardian, subject to certain legal requirements.  Among some persons the court may consider are:

  • person(s) appointed as guardian or conservator by a court of any jurisdiction in which the incapacitated person resides,
  • a person or corporation nominated by the incapacitated person, if the court deems that the incapacitated person has the capacity to make an intelligent choice,
  • a person nominated to serve as a guardian in the incapacitated person's most recent durable or health care power of attorney,
  • the incapacitated person's spouse,
  • an adult child of the incapacitated person,
  • a parent of the incapacitated person, including a person nominated by a will or other instrument by a deceased parent,
  • a relative of the incapacitated person whom they have resided with for more than six (6) months prior to the petition's filing,
  • a person nominated by the person who is caring for or paying benefits for the incapacitated person,
  • the department of veterans' services (if applicable),
  • a private fiduciary,
  • a public fiduciary,

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, Probate Court Administration will contact 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 2020-006.

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.

Upon a hearing being set by Probate Court Administration, your or your representative will be provided with a court-generated Notice of Hearing that includes all of the hearing details and some additional information.

If you have set a hearing, and have NOT received a Notice of Hearing, please contact the Probate Court Administration Calendaring Unit.

Guardianship/Conservatorship - After the Petition is filed...

After your Petition is filed, you will need to obtain a hearing, which can be accomplished 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 and the availability of your assigned Judge/Commissioner, but the average timeframe may range from 2 to 8 weeks out.

After obtaining a hearing date, Probate Court Administration will notify the Office of Public Defense Services that an attorney needs to be appointed for the proposed ward/protected person. 

The Office of Public Defense Services will appoint an attorney who will represent the proposed ward/protected person up to, and including, the hearing date.  In some cases as the court deems necessary, but especially in Conservatorship cases, the appointment may extend beyond this hearing date.

After both an attorney has been appointed, Probate Court Administration will file and issue the appropriate Order naming this individual.  A copy of this Order will be emailed and/or mailed to the named Petitioner.

PLEASE NOTE:  This attorney is only appointed to represent the proposed ward/protected person, and NOT the person filing the Petition and NOT the person nominated to be the Guardian and/or Conservator, and the Office of Public Defense Services will not appoint an attorney to represent these persons.

If the person filing, or the person nominated, need an attorney, they will need to hire an attorney of their own choosing.  Please be advised that the court CAN NOT make any attorney recommendations.  

As far as you, the petitioner, no.

If the protected person is deemed to be indigent, or incapable of affording the costs of an attorney, there will likely be no cost applied to the protected person and/or his or her estate. 

If the court does not make a finding of indigence, and depending on whether or not the proposed ward/protected person has assets such that he or she can afford the costs of an attorney, court-appointed counsel may be allowed to seek reimbursement of their fees and costs from the estate/conservatorship of the protected person.

After getting the name of the attorney from the Office of Public Defense Services, Probate Court Administration will file an issue an Order Appointing Attorney, Medical Professional and Court Investigator

In addition to the case number and name of the proposed ward/protected person, this Order will include the following:

  • Name, Address and Telephone Number for the attorney appointed to represent the proposed ward/protected person.
  • Name and Address for the Medical Professional designated to evaluate the proposed ward/protected person, if such a person is named in the Petition or medical report.  (This is often, but not always, the proposed ward’s primary care specialist or primary psychologist/psychiatrist.  The court does not make this appointment, nor does the court provide a list of professionals who will complete this report).
  • The name and telephone number for the Court Investigator assigned.

If you have set a hearing, and have NOT received an Order Appointing Attorney, Medical Professional and Court Investigator after 2-3 business days, please contact the Probate Court Administration Calendaring Unit.

The filing party will need to provide written notice to all interested parties, which may include immediate family members and/or their respective attorneys, any persons who have made a demand for notice, as well as the proposed ward and his/her court-appointed attorney, and then file proof that notice was given.

Written notice advises any of the parties listed above of what Petition is before the court and the hearing date, time, and location that has been set. 

Parties entitled to notice can choose to waive their right to notice by completing and filing a Waiver of Notice.

In Arizona, there are persons/entities that exist that provide professional fiduciary services, such as managing financial affairs, medical decisions and other vital matters, and these persons/entities are required to be licensed by the Arizona Supreme Court for the services they provide in such capacity.

This is not a requirement for all persons seeking to be a Guardian and/or Conservator.

On the other hand, if you are not a licensed fiduciary, you will be required to complete the court-approved training and file proof before the Clerk of Court will issue your Letters of Appointment, the document that gives you your authority as a Guardian and/or Conservator.

Guardianship/Conservatorship - Leading Up To the Hearing...

After you have filled out and filed the guardianship and/or conservatorship petition and other documents with the Court, you must inform all “interested persons” of what you have filed and what you have asked the court to do.

"Providing notice" to an persons entitled to notice means providing these persons with at least the following:

  • The Petition;
  • The Affidavit of Person to be Appointed; and
  • The Notice of Hearing

According to Arizona law (A.R.S. § 14-5309 AND 14-5405) notice must be given to:

  • The person to be protected (the proposed; ward/protected person)
  • The parents of the protected person.
  • The spouse of the protected person (if applicable);
  • Any adult children of the protected person;
  • Any person who is serving as the guardian or conservator or who has the care and custody of the person to be protected, which may include agencies such as Adult Protective Services or the Department of Veterans' Affairs;
  • If the person to be protected has no parent or spouse or adult children, then the closest adult relative, if any can be found, AND;
  • Any person who has filed a DEMAND FOR NOTICE with the Court, which may include agencies such as Adult Protective Services or the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

Any of the persons listed above who are entitled or required to receive notice can sign a Waiver of Notice, giving up their right to receive notice of court filings and proceedings in this matter.

Please note: If an incapacitated adult for whom the guardian or conservator is to be appointed signs a Waiver, he or she must attend the hearing for service to be valid.

Service of any interested persons can be accomplished by any one of the following means:

  • Personal Service - This method requires that a registered process server or the sheriff serves the documents on the interested persons.  Alternatively, those persons can voluntarily sign an Acceptance of Service form in the presence of a Notary Public or Deputy Clerk of Court.
  • Mail or Hand-Delivery - This is a less formal method of giving notice, but may not be permitted in all cases. If and when you are permitted to give notice by mail, 1st class postage-prepaid mail is usually acceptable to the court. Certified mail with return- receipt is an optional extra step you can take to prove delivery. In some cases and situations, you may need prior court approval before using this method.
  • Publication - This method is used when you do not know the address of the person to whom you need to give notice, and after you have done everything you could to try to find the person you are still unable to come up with an address. Notice is then published at least 3 times in a newspaper in the county where the court hearing is held.  As with mail and hand-delivery, in some cases and situations, you may need prior court approval before using this method.

In order to prove that notice was provided, fill out and file a Declaration of Notice Provided form with the court to show who you gave notice to, when, and how. Fill out this form after the documents have been delivered or you have otherwise served notice on all interested persons.

You may also need to submit other documents required to support the Declaration of Notice Provided.  Depending on method(s) of service (how Notice was given), this may include one or more of the following:

  1. Acceptance of Service signed by the person receiving notice,
  2. Affidavit of Publication supplied by the newspaper if serving by publication,
  3. Affidavit of Service signed by the process server or sheriff.

Generally, you must give all interested persons notice of the court papers at least 14 days before the hearing.

If you are giving notice by publication, the date of the first publication must be at least 14 days before the hearing.

In Maricopa County, a Court Investigator is an employee of the court, and serves as the "eyes and ears" of the Court in Guardianship and Conservatorship matters.  

Leading up to your hearing date, a Probate Court Investigator will meet and interview all interested parties, including the proposed guardian/conservator, the proposed ward/protected person, family members, physicians, social workers, case managers, etc.

Some of these interviews may be conducted virtually (telephone or web-based), but the Investigator will be required to meet with the proposed ward/protected person in person and will need to observe the home or facility where the proposed ward/protected person resides.

The Investigator will also address any questions about the guardianship/conservatorship process.

Upon conclusion of their investigation, the Investigator will prepare and submit a report to the court with all relevant observations, as well as a recommendation to the court as to the appropriateness of the guardianship/conservatorship, and the appropriateness of the nominated guardian/conservator to serve in that capacity.

This report is filed with the court and a copy provided to any interested persons.

The petitioner and/or the nominated guardian and/or conservator should prepare the appropriate Order to....  This document outlines the duties and responsibilities of the Guardian and/or Conservator, and should be acknowledged (signed) by the proposed Guardian(s) and/or Conservator(s) to be presented to, and signed by, the assigned Judicial Officer on the hearing date:

The petitioner and/or nominated guardian and/or conservator should also prepare the appropriate Order of Appointment....  This document, signed by the assigned Judicial Officer, is the Court's final Order regarding the need for Guardianship/Conservatorship, making the appointment of, and naming the appointed Guardian/Conservator, as well as other appropriate findings.

Finally, if you have not already done so, you should ensure that you have completed the court-approved training and file proof before the Clerk of Court.

Guardianship/Conservatorship - At the Hearing and After...

The Judge/Commissioner will review all filed and submitted documents, including the Petition, Medical Professional's Report and Court Investigator's Report.

Testimony may be taken from any interested parties and evidence may be presented.

The Judge/Commissioner may enter an order that same day appointing a Guardian/Conservator, either on an emergency, temporary, or permanent basis, but may also opt to continue the hearing or issue a ruling on a later day.

The Judge/Commissioner may also choose to dismiss the matter if the evidence does not support that a need for a Guardian/Conservator exists.

No, there are still a few steps remaining, some which need to be performed on all Guardianship/Conservatorship cases, and some that may be ordered depending on the nature of the case.

On all such cases, the appointed Guardian/Conservator or their counsel will need to take their copies of the Order to... and Order of Appointment, along with their Letters of Appointment to the Clerk of Court to have the Letters of Appointment issued.  

Who is a vulnerable adult?

Arizona law defines a “vulnerable adult” as “an individual who is eighteen years of age or older and who is unable to protect himself from abuse, neglect or exploitation by others because of a physical or mental impairment.”  A.R.S. § 14-451(A)(11).  An adult for whom the Court has appointed a guardian is, by definition, a “vulnerable adult.”  See id.  However, a person does not have to be under a guardianship to satisfy the definition of a “vulnerable adult.”

What may you do if you if you are concerned about the welfare of a vulnerable adult?

If you are concerned about the welfare of a vulnerable adult, you have many options.  Those options include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • If you believe the welfare of a vulnerable adult is in immediate danger, you may call 9-1-1 and ask law enforcement or other emergency services to conduct a welfare check.
  • You may contact Adult Protective Services (“APS”) by calling 1-877-767-2385 (1-877-SOS-ADULT) or by filling out an online report at  If necessary, an APS worker may obtain a special visitation warrant to visit the vulnerable adult.  See A.R.S. § 14-5310.01 and -452(A).
  • Contact the Public Fiduciary for the county in which the vulnerable adult is present.  See A.R.S. § 14-5602(A).

In addition, if a guardian has been appointed for the vulnerable adult, you may file a petition that asks the Court either to terminate the guardianship or to appoint a different guardian for the vulnerable adult.  See A.R.S. § 14-5307.

Probate and Mental Health   Presiding Judge
Dean M. Fink

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

  This page was last updated on: