Thursday, 21 June 2018 12:22

Adult Guardianships in Arizona

Sometimes people have to go through the sad task of obtaining an adult guardianship.  Sometimes they need a guardianship over an elderly parent or other relative because the parent or relative has a diminished capacity in his or her old age.  Sometimes, an adult child, parent, or other relative has had an accident with a brain injury, for example, that has left him or her unable to address daily needs.  Sometimes an incapcitated child becomes an adult.  In all three situations, someone, usually a parent or child of the proposed ward, must seek a court order in the Probate Court of the Arizona Superior Court in order to have a guardianship over the incapacitated person.
The guardianship will allow the guardian to make decisions for the ward, seek medical attention for the ward, provide for the ward’s day-to-day needs, determine where the ward lives, and make living arrangements for the ward.  A guardianship does not authorize the guardian to handle the ward’s property and finances.  A conservator must handle the ward’s property and finances.  Therefore, when a ward has property and finances to handle, the petitioner will seek appointment of both a guardian and a conservator, which are usually the same person.
To start the process, the petitioner must file a petition to establish a guardianship over the proposed ward, along with several other papers.  Once the court sets a hearing date, the petitioner must contact the Office of the Public Defender so that they may assign a lawyer to represent the proposed ward; complete the order appointing attorney, health professional, and court investigator; give the order to the probate registrar; and serve notice on all persons entitled to notice, such as the other parent of the proposed ward or other children of the proposed ward (these people may sign a waiver of notice).  The petitioner must also give a set of the court’s guidelines to the physician appointed to complete the evaluation.
The petitioner then must provide the report to the court five business days before the hearing.  The petitioner must also file the notice of hearing, waiver of notice (if any), affidavit of service, and the order appointing five business days prior to the hearing. 
The petitioner must go to the hearing with all of the required forms and orders, including the order appointing a guardian and letters of guardianship, for the court to sign.  If no one objects to the guardianship or to the proposed guardian, the court will have an uncontested hearing and, assuming that the petitioner has met all the statutory requirements and the proposed ward needs a guardian, the hearing will be easy.  If someone objects, the court may have an uncontested hearing and decide the issue or set another hearing to gather more information.
If you need help with an adult guardianship, Thomas A. Morton can help you.
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The Superior Court's website in Maricopa County has many useful forms for people representing themselves in court.  The family law category of forms is the most impressive, with forms for divorce, annulment, legal separation, child support, spousal maintenance, alimony, temporary orders, custody/legal decision making, parenting time, and many other topics.  I do not particularly like the forms because they are too long, sometimes don't make much sense, and lack flexibility, but they are far better than the alternative of not submitting anything at all, or someone with no legal background or training attempting to write court filings.  If you decide to use the court's forms, my advice is to do so with the advice of an experienced lawyer.  However, if you are using the forms, it is probably because you cannot afford a lawyer.  In that case, be very careful about what you sign and submit to the court.  Do not be afraid to cross out requests in the form that you do not want to make.


Aside from forms for family law, the court's website has many useful forms for probate, juvenile law, civl law, and powers of attorney.  The court has sufficient probate forms to complete an entire informal probate from beginning to end, juvenile court forms sufficient to complete a voluntary guardianship, and four powers of attorney sets of forms (general power of attorney, special power of attorney, parental power of attorney, and revocation of power of attorney).  The court also provides detailed instructions for its forms.


Again, my usual advice is to hire an attorney because attorneys have experience, are familiar with the judges, have an emotional detachment to your case, and know the potential pitfalls.  However, sometimes doing something on your own is better than doing nothing and the reality is that not everyone can hire an attorney.


This is the link to the Maricopa County Superioe Court's forms (Self Service Center):


Good luck!

Published in Blog
Thursday, 31 July 2014 11:54

What to do When Someone Dies

This is a basic outline of the legal steps and steps that are not legal but have an impact on possible legal issues that you should take when a person dies.  Unfortunately, many of these steps can be very important and you must take them at a very sad and emotional time.

1. Consider the emotional impact of the death on the surviving
spouse, children, and close relatives.  Act accordingly.

2. If the decedent had dependant children, decide how to provide care for them.  If the person left an incapacitated surviving spouse, do the same for the surviving spouse.

3. Decide what security the person’s home needs.  At a minimum, you should cancel deliveries and credit cards and notify the post office to either forward or hold mail.

4. Make funeral arrangements.  This may include contacting clergy, making mortuary and burial or cremation arrangements (resist overselling), organ donation if the person authorized it in a living will, and ordering death certificates, which you can arrange through the mortuary.  Investigate whether the person had already made any funeral arrangements.  KEEP ALL RECORDS OF FUNERAL AND OTHER EXPENSES.

5. Find the original Will and/or Living Trust.  You must find the original.

6. Find life insurance policies and claim forms.

7. Investigate the following benefits and contact the appropriate claims personnel:

a. Social Security

b. Union death benefits

c. Veterans benefits (including Veterans Affairs benefits, Servicemembers and Veterans Group Life Insurance, Thrift Savings Plan, Survivor Benefit Plan, and Disabled Veterans Life Insurance - the monthly benefit statement from Defense Finance and Accounting Service will be helpful)

d. Veterans burial allowance

e. Accrued vacation pay

f. Employee death benefit

g. Final wages

h. IRA/401(k) account

i. Retirement plan death benefits

j. Deferred compensation

k. Medical reimbursements to help pay for hospital and doctor

l. Refunds on insurance, cancelled subscriptions or other items

m. Life insurance

n. Medical insurance

o. Bank, financial, and investment accounts

8. Find deeds to real estate.

9. Meet with CPA/accountant to prepare final tax returns and
establish tax basis in property.

10. Consult a probate lawyer.  Do not assume that you must file a probate proceeding or that you do not have to file a probate proceeding.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 05 June 2014 16:48

Requirements of a Valid Will in Arizona

Your will is one of the most important legal documents you will sign during your life.  Your will directs how your money and goes upon your death, names a personal representative to administer the estate, names a guardian to care for your minor children upon your death, and names a conservator to manage minor children’s assets.  In order to serve these purposes, your will must be valid.  In Arizona, a will must meet the following requirements to be valid.

Required Age to Execute a Will

The testator (the person making the will) must be 18 years of age or older and must be of sound mind.  The person signing the will must be able to understand the extent of his or her property, know who would inherit his or her property if the testator dies without a will (spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, e.g.), and must understand that by executing a will the testator is specifically naming his or her beneficiaries what specific property each beneficiary should receive.

A Will Must Be In Writing, Signed, and Witnessed.

Arizona statutes must be in writing, signed by the testator, and signed by two witnesses. If the testator is unable to physically sign his or her name, s/he may direct another person to do so for him or her in the testator’s presence.  Either each witness must see the testator sign the will or the testator must tell each witness that the signature on the will is the testator’s signature. Each witness must sign the will in the presence of the testator and the other witness.

Holographic Wills

A holographic will is a will that the testator wrote in the testator’s own handwriting. For such a will to be valid in Arizona, the material provisions in the will must be in the testator’s handwriting and the testator must have signed the will. Material provisions are provisions that name beneficiaries and the property they receive. The holographic will must also indicate that the testator intends and wants to dispose of his or her property with the holographic will.  A holographic need not be signed by witnesses, but it can be signed by witnesses.


The witnesses must be generally competent.  Although an interested person (i.e., someone named in the will) may sign as a witness, it is better practice to not have interested witnesses.

Self-Proving Wills

Wills can be "self-proving" in Arizona.  If a will is self-proving and the authenticity and no one challenges the authenticity of the will, the probate court may accept the will in informal probate. Since the probate court automatically accepts a self-proven will, witnesses to a self-proven will do not have to testify.  A will is self-proving if the testator and witnesses affirm the will’s authenticity in an affidavit they sign in front of a notary, and the notary signs and stamps the affidavit, which is either part of the will or attached to the will.


















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2916 N. 7th Avenue, Suite 100
Phoenix, Arizona 85013
(602) 595-6870

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