A guardianship is a legal relationship between a guardian and an individual who would be at serious risk of harm or exploitation if left without someone to help care for them. Some examples include developmentally disabled children who continue to need assistance after age 18, or a person who is unable to communicate or take care of themselves due to an accident or the aging process.
A certified professional guardian may be requested by the petitioner, recommended by the court investigator, or appointed by the court in cases where there are no family members willing or able to act as guardian, in cases of abuse or exploitation of a vulnerable person, or where there is a complex estate to manage that may require specialized skills or knowledge.
In Washington State, certified professional guardians are required to adhere to standards of practice and ethical guidelines and to obtain continuing education. The activities of professional guardians are overseen by the Washington State Certified Professional Guardian Board.
Establishment of a guardianship is a legal decision made by a judge, rather than a medical decision made by a doctor.
Guardians use substituted judgment as their first decision-making tool to act as the incapacitated person would if they still had capacity.