While a guardian is someone appointed for an incapacitated adult to make healthcare and lifestyle decisions for that person, a conservator is appointed to manage the finances of an incapacitated adult. Guardianships and conservatorships may be established independently or jointly. A conservatorship may be required depending on the assets and income of the incapacitated person and whether those assets are in need of protection.
A conservator is an individual appointed by the Court to manage the assets for an incapacitated person. In Arizona, the Probate Court will only appoint a conservator for an adult if that adult is incapacitated and a conservatorship is necessary to provide for the demonstrated needs of the adult. Additionally, the Court must also find that there are no other less restrictive means to provide for the needs of the incapacitated adult. This is something that the Court takes very seriously, because by finding that an adult is incapacitated and in need of a conservator, the Court is taking away the incapacitated
adult’s authority to make any decisions with regard to his or her finances. After appointment, all such decisions will be made by the conservator, under the court accountant’s supervision.
With this in mind, the process for appointing a conservator for an adult requires the appointment of several individuals to lend an opinion to the Court as to the adult’s capacity and the appropriateness of appointing a conservator. Upon the filing of a Petition with the Court, the Court will appoint an investigator to interview the allegedly incapacitated person, as well as family members and others with insight as to the person’s condition and
ability to care for him or herself. The Court will also appoint a physician, nurse, or psychologist to evaluate the person’s mental capacity. Finally, the Court will appoint an attorney to represent the allegedly incapacitated person. That attorney’s role is to advocate for what the person wants, which may or may not be what is “best” for the person. All of these appointed individuals will be heard by the Court at an appointment hearing, and then the judicial officer will determine whether the appointment of a conservator is appropriate for the situation. Keep in mind that while the court appoints these professionals, they each require compensation for their service that is not provided by the Court.
Seeking appointment of a conservator for an incapacitated adult in Arizona is not something that should be taken lightly. Because of its restrictive and costly nature, it should be considered only after discussion with an experienced attorney who can recommend and explain other possible resolutions. For more information call the Dana Law Firm at 480-515-3716.
Written by Scottsdale Estate Litigation Attorney Samantha Garber