What is Guardianship?
A guardian is a person appointed by the court to manage the affairs of a person who is incapacitated. Incapacity might result from an accident, chronic illness, dementia, etc., making it impossible for a loved one to provide their own personal care or handle financial matters. If the incapacitated person does not have a power of attorney, guardianship is the most common legal response. A court-appointed guardian has responsibility for the financial, legal and/or personal needs of the individual who has been deemed incapacitated by the court. Once appointed, a Guardian must regularly report to the court as to the incapacitated person’s personal and financial status. Unfortunately, as an ongoing court-supervised process, guardianship can be an expensive and intrusive solution. Guardianships can also become very litigious as the guardianship can be legally resisted by the alleged incapacitated person or by other family members.
Types of Guardianship
There are two kinds of guardianships: a guardianship of the person and a guardianship of the estate. A guardian is a person appointed by the court to supervise an incapacitated person’s physical and medical care (guardianship of “the person”) or financial and property affairs (guardianship of “the estate”).
Alternatives to Guardianship
In either a guardianship for the person or the estate, the court will inquire as to whether there are less restrictive alternatives to a guardianship available such as a trust, power of attorney, social security payee, etc. In some situations, an individual may not require a guardianship but may need the benefits of a vulnerable adult protection order to protect the vulnerable adult from immediate and irreparable harm. In other situations, an individual may require that a guardian be appointed for long-term decision-making as well as the immediate benefits provided by a protection order.
Our guardianship attorneys routinely advise and represent the families of people whose ability to care for themselves is in substantial doubt. Our guardianship attorneys also represent people who want to resist the appointment of a guardian, including the allegedly incapacitated person and other family members. The guardianship attorneys at Salmon Creek Law Offices also advise and represent guardians regarding the scope of their guardianship responsibilities, their periodic reporting duties as a guardian, and matters related to any proposed termination of the guardianship or substitution of the guardian.
Is Guardianship Right For Your Loved One?
Our experienced guardianship attorneys view guardianships as a last resort to assure the physical and financial security of a loved one who can no longer manage his or her own affairs.
Does Your Special Needs Child Need a Guardian?
If you have a child who is unable to care for themself because of a disability, you may be concerned about what to do when your child turns 18 and becomes an adult, according to Washington Law. In Washington state, parents do not automatically have the authority to make legal decisions for their special-needs children who turn 18. In fact, the general rule is that parents of adult children do NOT have the ability to make decisions for their adult children, even if that child has special needs. For that reason, it is generally advisable for parents to seek a guardianship for their special-needs child just prior to the child’s 18th birthday.
Keep in mind that Washington Law allows the parent of a disabled child to assist the disabled child with some limited things without being appointed the disabled child’s guardian. Examples include giving informed consent for medical treatment/procedures and being a representative payee through the Social Security Administration or Veteran’s Administration.