Guardians for Minors – The Importance of Nominating a Guardian

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In Arizona, any person under the age of 18 is considered a minor. Minors are essentially protected by their parents who make all their legal decisions for them. If something happens to the parents, the child becomes a ward of the court.

To protect your child or children from having their fate completely at the mercy of the courts, parents should have a guardianship in place as part of their estate plan in case of their untimely incapacitation or death.

What is a guardianship?

Guardianship for a minor child is the legal process that transfers legal custody and control over said child to a person or entity who is not their parent.

There are several reasons for which a guardian needs to be assigned to a minor. This includes when a parent becomes unable to care for said child for a temporary or extended period of time due to financial or medical reasons, or if the parent is incapacitated or incarcerated.

Legal guardianship only transfers the legal rights and custody of the child to another person, but it does not terminate the parental relationship in temporary cases.

Who can be a guardian?

Guardians of minor children are usually relatives or close friends of the family. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, or even siblings who are 18 years of age or older can be nominated, and then appointed as guardians. In cases where the person is not related to the minor child, Arizona requires fingerprinting.

Technically, anyone who wants to be a guardian for a child they know can petition the court and request guardianship. They must be prepared to explain how assigning them guardianship is in the best interest of the child.

Who can nominate a guardian?

As part of estate planning, parents nominate the responsible adults of their choosing to take over the care and protection of their children if something happens to them, whether temporary or permanent.

Arizona allows a minor child that is 18 years of age or older to nominate a guardian to care for them.

Who can Object to Guardians?

An object to petition must be filed with the court when a person disagrees with another petition for guardianship. However, they must be prepared to explain why they disagree if the judge approves the objection to petition.

Who appoints the guardian?

The probate or juvenile courts have rule over termination of parental rights where it is in the best interest of the child.

If the court approves a petition for guardianship, they will assign the guardian (and/or co-guardians) to the child based on what is in the child’s best interest.

What are the responsibilities of the guardian?

Guardianship of a minor child requires the person to ensure that all the child’s needs are met as if they are the child’s parent. They must provide food, clothing, and shelter as well as attend to the educational, social, spiritual, and medical needs of the child. Where personal property is involved, they may also be responsible for that.

Where money or benefits are included, the guardian may be responsible for the funds, which may include child support, money provided by relatives, governmental benefits, or money from a trust.

After the monetary care of the child is met, a guardian should also maintain a savings account in case of unexpected needs. The money for the child should be kept in a separate account for the proper maintenance and recording of any transactions. The court may appoint a separate conservator for money and property management for the minor.

Annual reports on the anniversary of the guardianship are required by the courts to report on the child’s status and the status of the guardianship. The report should include the following:

  • The minor’s address
  • The minor’s doctor
  • Information regarding the minor’s mental and physical health (include a current doctor’s report)
  • Information about the child’s education like the school they are attending, the last grade they completed, and any pertinent information about the overall school experience of the child
  • Report if the child will reach 15 within the next year or if the child will require continued guardianship due to incapacitation
  • How many times the guardian saw and the date they saw them last
  • Any reasons as to why guardianship should or should not continue
  • Provide contact information of the person taking care of the minor’s assets and if the child receives local, state, county, or federal services

Anything can happen if guardianship appointments are left solely to the courts. They don’t know your child/children or the people around them like you do. It is imperative that parents have guardianship included with their estate planning documents. You want to ensure that all your child’s needs are attended to and that they are in the most responsible and capable hands.

If you need to file a petition for guardianship or are interested in learning more about guardianship, feel free to schedule a free 30-minute consultation and let us assist you in your estate planning goals today.

This article is provided as a public service by the Law Offices of C. David Martinez, PLLC. While the information on this site is about legal issues, it is not legal advice or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law and our reliance upon outside sources, we make no warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained herein.

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