What is a guardianship?

A guardianship is a protective proceeding in which the court is asked to appoint an individual (or entity) to make decisions and provide care for a minor or an incapacitated adult (known as the “ward”). The court can appoint a guardian for an unmarried minor if all parental rights of custody have been terminated or suspended by circumstances or by prior court order. With regard to an adult guardianship, before making such an appointment, the court must find that (1) the person for whom a guardian is sought is incapacitated; (2) the appointment is necessary to provide for the demonstrated needs of the incapacitated person; and (3) the person’s needs cannot be met by less restrictive means, including the use of technological assistance.

If you are seeking appointment as a guardian, you will be required to complete an affidavit which the court may require you to furnish a full set of fingerprints to enable the court to conduct a criminal background investigation and you will have to pay the cost for this. By accepting the appointment as guardian, you are consenting personally to the jurisdiction of the court in any proceeding relating to the guardianship.

Generally, a guardian has the same powers, rights and duties with respect to the ward that a parent has with respect to an unemancipated minor child. A guardian makes personal decisions for the ward with regard to living arrangements, education, and social activities. A guardian is responsible to make arrangements for the ward’s medical or other professional care, counseling, and mental health treatment outside of a locked psychiatric or mental health facility. Under certain circumstances, a guardian can obtain authority to arrange for mental health treatment care and authority within a locked setting. A guardian must take reasonable care of the ward’s belongings and commence protective proceedings if the ward has property which is in need of protection.

Sometimes a guardianship can be avoided for an adult who has already executed a valid health care power of attorney, mental health care power of attorney, and a living will (for end of life decisions). However, the adult must have been competent to understand the powers of attorney when executed. It should be noted that even if an adult has powers of attorney and a living will, he or she could still be subject to a guardianship proceeding. This is particularly true if someone believes the person nominated as the agent in a heath care power of attorney is not acting in the best interests of the incapacitated person. A guardianship will invalidate pre-existing powers of attorney.

There are many other duties and responsibilities that a guardian has with respect to a ward. If you have questions or want help determining whether a guardianship is right for your loved one, we know how to analyze the situation. If a guardianship is warranted, we can prepare and file the correct documents and conduct the court hearing to secure your appointment.

I have a child who is 17 or older and cannot make good decisions. Can I be appointed as guardian?


What does “incapacitated” mean?


Will a guardianship create unreasonable limits on my loved one?


I have an elderly parent who is not making good decisions and not taking good care of himself/herself. Can I be appointed as guardian?


My friend’s spouse died and she has been living alone. She recently lost touch with reality and is not taking care of herself. Is there something I can do to help her?


I have a loved one who was placed in a locked psychiatric setting and I only have three days to get a guardianship. Can this be done?


I want to move an Arizona guardianship to another state. Or, I want to move a guardianship from another state to Arizona. Can this be done?


I have been asked to take custody of some minor children while the parents are unavailable. Do I need a guardianship?