Superior Court >Probate And Mental Health >Probate Case Processing

Probate Case Processing - Definitions Guardianship of an Adult An Adult Guardian is appointed by the court to care for and make decisions for someone who cannot make decisions due to a mental or physical illness, disability, or alcohol or drug abuse. The law calls this individual an "incapacitated person." An incapacitated adult, for whom a Guardian has been appointed, is referred to by law as a "ward." The Guardian makes decisions concerning arrangements for the adult ward including housing, education, medical care, food, clothing, and social activities.

Often, friends or family members ask the court for legal authority to act as Guardian. When no friend or family member is willing to accept this responsibility, the judicial officer may appoint a private fiduciary. Private Fiduciaries charge service fees. If the ward has a modest estate, the court may appoint the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary as Guardian.
Conservatorship of an Adult A Conservator is a person, or sometimes a financial institution, appointed by the judicial officer to manage money and property for someone else. The person needing the Conservatorship is called a "protected person."

The judicial officer may appoint a Conservator when the judicial officer determines two things: First, that the person to be protected is not capable of managing his or her money and property effectively. Second, that the person to be protected has money or property that may be squandered. A Conservator will not be appointed until after a court hearing.

The judicial officer will order the Conservator to obtain a bond in an amount the judicial officer determines is necessary to protect the person's assets. Bonds insure protection against theft or fraud and are obtained from insurance companies. The Court might order that part of the ward's assets are restricted, which will lower the amount of the bond.
Guardianship of a Minor A Guardian of a minor is someone other than a parent who is appointed by the court to make decisions for a child under the age of 18. Generally, the Guardian of a minor has the same authority and responsibilities of a parent to provide food, housing, medical care, education, and supervision. Unlike a parent, a Guardian is not required to provide for the child from personal funds, and is not necessarily financially responsible to others for the actions of the ward.

As of October 18, 2005, new petitions for minor Guardianships are to be filed with Juvenile Court (See SSC Juvenile: SSC Juvenile).
Conservatorship of a Minor A person appointed by the judicial officer to manage money and property for someone under the age of 18. The Conservator is usually a parent or sometimes a financial institution. The minor child for whom the Conservator is appointed is referred to by law as a "protected person." Decedent Estates When a person dies, you might have to come to probate court if:
  • the person's property did not pass on automatically according to the title or arrangements such as joint tenancy, community property, or a trust, AND
  • the estate is large enough that the property cannot pass on as a small estate

Probate court is generally not very difficult. Almost always the case is handled as an informal probate, which means that court orders are signed simply by filing paperwork at court, and without supervision by a judicial officer and any court hearings. Even if part of the case is handled formally, which means a court hearing is necessary to straighten out some detail, the rest of the case can be informal. Adult Adoptions Any adult may adopt another adult who is at least eighteen years of age and not more than twenty-one years of age and who consents to the adoption or another adult person who is a stepchild, niece, nephew, cousin, or grandchild of the adopting person. A foster parent may adopt an adult who was placed in his/her care as a juvenile if the foster parent has maintained a continuous familial relationship with that person for five or more years. Trusts Estate planning tools that name a trustee to manage a person's assets during his or her lifetime, and tells the trustee how to distribute those assets when the person dies. Unlike a will, a trust can reduce or eliminate estate taxes and the need for probate court.

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National Center for State Courts - Report on Probate Court Improvements
Probate Improvement Plan. Click to view PDF
Probate Case Management Protocol. Click to view PDF
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