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Scottsdale  •  Phoenix

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Guardianships and Vulnerable Adults in Arizona

ABC15 reports that Sun Valley Group of Tempe requested appointment as guardian to Gloria Horrigan and Rosemary Brown. Upon appointment, Horrigan was taken to a nursing home against her will and not allowed visitors, not even her family. Brown followed a similar pattern, also taken and not allowed to see her family or visitors.

In Arizona, anyone interested in the affairs or welfare of an allegedly incompetent person may petition the court for appointment as a guardian. If appointed, generally a guardian has similar powers, rights and duties respecting the incompetent person, or ward, as a parent has toward an unemancipated minor child. This includes the authority to seek services in the best interest of the ward and may include the power to consent to inpatient psychiatric and psychological care and treatment for a ward.

Appointment Process

One way to create a guardianship is for an interested party to request appointment by the court. After an investigation by a court-appointed investigator and examination by a physician, psychologist or registered nurse, a hearing is held. The allegedly incapacitated adult is entitled to an attorney at the hearing.

The court may appoint a guardian when:

  • The person for whom a guardian is sought is incapacitated
  • The appointment is necessary to promote the demonstrated needs of the incapacitated person
  • The person’s needs cannot be met by any less restrictive means, including the use of technological assistance

Opposition to Appointment

The would-be guardian must provide notice of the hearing, including notice to the spouse, parents, adult children, anyone currently serving as guardian or conservator of the person, and anyone who has filed a demand for notice. Notice must be provided at least 14 days prior to the hearing. Those receiving notice can appear at the hearing in order to voice any objections to the appointment they have.

Appointment Against the Wishes of the Ward’s Family

Following appointment the ward or any person interested in his or her welfare may remove a guardian and appoint a successor guardian if it is in the best interests of the ward. It may be possible in some instances to request that the court issue an order that the ward is no longer incompetent and therefore is not in need of a guardian. The guardian may also resign via petition to the court at any time.

Guardians are required to submit a report to the court on the anniversary of the date of their appointment every year. The report must contain information about the ward and his or her care, including the last date the ward was seen by a physician or registered nurse practitioner. Interested parties can request a copy of this report whether they have concerns or simply wish to monitor the care of the ward.

Warning Signs

According to ABC15, Horrigan’s family spent over $100,000 after only four months of care by Sun Valley Group. As part of its service, Sun Valley Group was also to take over Horrigan’s personal finances. However, her daughter says, Horrigan did not receive proper medical attention, her bills were not paid and her home went into foreclosure.

Brown’s final bill was nearly $500,000 and included charges for an employee to open her mail at $75 per hour. Her family was finally allowed to see her when the nursing home staff believed Brown was dying.

Sun Valley Group is under investigation by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Organized Crime Unit. Family members who receive notice of guardianship proceedings for vulnerable adults may wish to investigate the requesting guardian. In addition, the following symptoms and circumstances at a facility may be causes for concern:

  • Dehydration or malnutrition
  • Bruises or bedsores
  • Broken bones or other unexplained injuries
  • Overmedication
  • Frequent infections
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Unreasonable restraint of the ward
  • Failure to assist with personal hygiene of the ward
  • The ward is not allowed visitors, including family members

An experienced Phoenix injury lawyer at Knapp & Roberts can explain the options, including what action can be taken to protect vulnerable adults. If the above circumstances look familiar or abuse or neglect of an elderly relative is suspected, contact an attorney for assistance.

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