The Probate Court often had difficulty putting an adult guardianship or conservatorship in place for a person in need of protection who was still a minor but was about to become an adult. In most cases, the petitions seeking the guardianship or conservatorship for an adult were filed prior to the child’s 18th birthday in order to have protective provisions in place immediately when the child reached adulthood. However, this created a jurisdictional problem for the court because the child was not yet an adult when the petition was filed. The court’s response to these petitions was varied: some were dismissed, other were not acted upon until after the child’s 18th birthday. This inconsistency led to SB1081 which created the new standby guardianship and conservatorship via A.R.S. §§14-5301.03 and 14-5301.04.
Under these new statutes a petition for a minor who needs protection can be filed when the minor reaches 17.5 years old. If the child is found in need of the guardianship or conservatorship when he/she becomes an adult, the court will enter the order granting the protection but which does not become effective until the person’s 18th birthday. These new laws permit a better continuum of care for special needs children who are transitioning into adulthood. If you are the parent of a special needs teenager approaching adulthood who may need a guardian or conservator, you should speak with a knowledgeable attorney about this new option.