Establishment of a guardianship is a legal decision made by a judge, rather than a medical decision made by a doctor. Washington State statutes specifically state that age, eccentricity, poverty, or medical diagnoses alone are not sufficient to justify a finding of incapacity. A person alleged to be incapacitated has the right to appear in court, to request a trial, and to be represented by an attorney throughout the guardianship process.
Once a guardianship petition is filed with the court, a neutral investigator called a guardian ad litem (GAL) is appointed to investigate the petition. The GAL meets individually with the alleged incapacitated person and interviews other individuals who are involved in their life. The GAL prepares and presents a report to the court outlining their recommendations regarding the medical, living, and financial situation, whether a guardian is needed, and who should be appointed as guardian.
In order for an adult to qualify for guardianship, the individual must be at significant risk of personal harm based upon a demonstrated inability to adequately provide for their nutrition, health, housing, or physical safety, and/or are at significant risk of financial harm based upon a demonstrated inability to adequately manage their property or financial affairs. The court will deem a person incapacitated and appoint a guardian only when it is satisfied that these requirements are met and that no less restrictive alternative is available. The court has authority to limit a guardianship to address an individual's specific abilities and limitations.
What does a Guardian do? Learn more...