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What Is an Adult Guardianship?


The courts provide authorization through means of a guardianship. Such authority allows an individual to care for and make personal decisions on behalf of an incapacitated adult. The law recognizes the person who needs a guardian as the “ward”. As such, the ward requires supervision and care due to incapacity to the extent that they cannot take care of or protect themselves because of a mental and/or physical health condition.

The court may appoint any competent person as guardian of the ward. The law provides a prioritized list of potential guardians. But the court ultimately decides who will be the guardian. The prioritized list includes:

1) someone already appointed as guardian by the court in another state

2) an adult nominated by the ward if the court believes the ward has capacity for such nomination

3) an adult nominated in the ward’s power of attorney

4) the ward’s spouse

5) an adult child of the ward

6) a parent of the ward

7) a person nominated in the ward’s will

8) any relative with whom the ward has lived with for more than six months


A will sets forth the ward’s preference as to who will serve as guardian. Sometimes an existing power of attorney operates as the guardian. Any person interested in the welfare of the incapacitated adult may file for a finding of incapacity and the appointment of a guardian for the ward. Those who wish to do this process on their own may find forms on the Maricopa County Superior Court website.

A Petitioner must personally serve the ward. Petitioner must serve others as well. These may include spouse, parents and adult children, any current guardians or conservators, and anyone who requested notification.

At a minimum, the closest living relative should be given notice. Adult wards who are going through the guardianship process must have an attorney. It can be an attorney with whom they are familiar or an attorney may be appointed by the probate court. In addition, a court-appointed physician and court investigator submit reports after an interview process with the adult ward. Then a hearing will take place. The ward in the guardianship proceeding has a right to be present.


Guardians in a guardianship have similar responsibilities and duties as those of a parent. They make personal decisions for the ward regarding medical decisions. Guardians decide social events, living conditions and arrangements, education and any professional care or services. They must provide written documentation of their guardianship each year on the anniversary date of their appointment. This written documentation includes a report on the health and living conditions of the ward, as well as a current doctor’s report.

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©2020 by Probate Law Group

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