According to a report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), an estimated 1.3 million adults are under guardianship in the United States. In Washington State, court-ordered fiduciaries are often established to ensure that individuals who are physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to make personal and financial decisions are properly cared for and protected.
If you need help appointing a guardian for a minor child or an incapacitated adult, or if you've been appointed as a guardian and want to understand your duties, it is important that you consult with an experienced Washington State estate planning attorney for detailed guidance. Attorney William E. Morgan is dedicated to guiding clients through the process of establishing guardianship. As your legal counsel, he can provide you with the experienced legal guidance and advocacy you need to appoint a guardian or execute your duties as a guardian to a family member.
William E. Morgan proudly serves individuals and families throughout Grays Harbor County, Washington, and the surrounding communities of Hoquiam, Aberdeen, Montesano, and Pacific County.
Guardianship can be described as a fiduciary relationship established by state law in which a court gives one person or entity (the guardian) the legal authority to make important personal, property, and financial decisions for another person (a ward or incapacitated adult) who are unable to make such decisions on their own.
Furthermore, guardianships may be used in any of the following situations:
Guardianship of a minor child
Guardianship of an incapacitated adult
Guardianship of a developmentally disabled adult
Upon finding that an adult is physically or mentally incapacitated and lacks the ability to make key decisions for him or herself, a Washington court may appoint a guardian for them.
A guardian is a person, entity, institution, or agency appointed by the court and given the responsibility to oversee and manage the affairs and interests of another person (a minor child, disabled, or incapacitated adult). The court-appointed guardian will have legal authority over the other person's personal, property, and financial decisions, including:
Where the person under guardianship will live
The medical treatment or health care services that the person under guardianship will receive
Financial benefits available to the person under guardianship
Real estate and other property matters
A guardian can be any individual or entity with a positive and established relationship with the person under the guardianship. A family friend, close relative, trusted family member, or an authorized caregiver who has the best interests of the person under guardianship in mind can be appointed as a guardian.
However, any of the following persons CANNOT be appointed a guardian:
A minor child
An incompetent person
A person who has filed for bankruptcy within the past seven years
Duties and responsibilities of a guardian include:
Providing adequate care, assistance, support, and maintenance
Providing food, clothing, shelter, and other essential needs
Advocating for the person under guardianship
Authorizing medical, surgical, dental, psychological, and psychiatric care
Ensuring that the person under guardianship receives proper education and training (if the person is a minor child)
Helping the protected person learn a profession, trade, or occupation
Preparing a detailed annual report to update the court about the wellbeing of the person under guardianship
While a guardian has the legal authority, duty, and power to make key personal, property, and financial decisions for the protected person, the guardian has limited jurisdiction in certain areas. Unless provided with court permission or approval, the guardian may not be able to:
Pay himself or herself for caring for and supporting the protected person
Move the person under guardianship to a different location
Place the protected person in a healthcare facility
Administer certain medications or drugs to the protected person
Sell any of the protected person's personal or real estate property
Withdraw funds from the protected person's account
Use the protected person's credit or debit card to make any payment
The process of appointing a guardian in Washington involves the following steps:
Filing a petition for guardianship with the state court (An attorney representing the concerned party or family member may file the petition)
Delivering a notice of guardianship petition to the potential guardian named in the petition
Appointing a court visitor or "guardian ad litem." The court visitor will interview and investigate the individuals involved in the guardianship case and present a report to the court
Holding a hearing to determine if the person actually needs a guardian
During the hearing, the presiding judge will:
Determine whether the concerned person needs a guardian or not
Certify that the proposed guardian is qualified and suitable for the role of guardianship, using the report presented by the court visitor
Sign an order appointing the guardian
Despite the massive numbers of guardians across the country, several Americans are not aware of the important role guardianship can play in the lives of both minor children and older adults. Before you appoint a guardian in your estate plan or begin acting as a guardian, understanding the legal rights, duties, and responsibilities of guardianship is paramount. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is important for proper guidance.
Attorney William E. Morgan has devoted his career to providing comprehensive and knowledgeable guidance in legal matters of estate planning, including senior care, elderly law, and guardianship. As your attorney, he will evaluate your personal situation, help you understand the guardianship process, and explore your legal options
If you need help choosing a guardian or you've been appointed as a guardian, contact William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, for a consultation. Attorney William E. Morgan can guide you through every step of the process and help you navigate critical decisions. He is proud to represent clients across Grays Harbor County, Hoquiam, Aberdeen, Montesano, and Pacific County, Washington.