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Adult Guardianship in Renton, Washington

 

At Duncan Law PLLC, we understand that navigating the complexities of adult guardianship can be challenging. This guide aims to answer common questions about adult guardianship in Washington State, helping you make informed decisions for your loved ones.
 

What is Adult Guardianship?

 

Adult guardianship is a legal process where a court appoints a person (the guardian) to make decisions for another adult (the ward) who is incapable of managing their own affairs due to incapacity or disability.
 

Types of Guardianship in Washington State

 

Washington recognizes two main types of guardianship:

  1. Guardianship of the Person: Involves making decisions about the ward's personal affairs, including healthcare and living arrangements.

  2. Guardianship of the Estate: Involves managing the ward's financial affairs and property.


A guardian may be appointed for either or both of these roles, depending on the ward's needs.
 

When is Guardianship Necessary?

 

Guardianship may be necessary when an adult:

  • Has a mental or physical illness that impairs decision-making

  • Is unable to care for their personal needs or manage their finances

  • Is at risk of harm without assistance

  • Has no less restrictive alternatives in place (e.g., power of attorney)
     

Who Can Serve as a Guardian in Washington State?

 

To serve as a guardian, an individual must:

  • Be at least 18 years old

  • Be of sound mind

  • Have no felony convictions

  • Have no unsatisfied civil judgments

  • Complete any training required by the court
     

Priority is often given to family members, but the court may appoint a professional guardian if necessary.
 

What is the Process for Establishing Guardianship?

  1. File a petition with the court

  2. Serve notice to the alleged incapacitated person and interested parties

  3. Court appoints a Guardian ad Litem to investigate

  4. Medical/psychological evaluation of the alleged incapacitated person

  5. Court hearing

  6. If granted, guardian files initial reports and completes required training
     

What Are the Alternatives to Guardianship?

 

Less restrictive alternatives to consider include:

  • Power of Attorney

  • Healthcare Directive

  • Representative Payee for government benefits

  • Supported Decision-Making Agreements

  • Trusts
     

What Are a Guardian's Responsibilities?

 

Responsibilities vary based on the type of guardianship but may include:

  • Ensuring proper care and living arrangements

  • Making healthcare decisions

  • Managing finances and property

  • Reporting regularly to the court

  • Acting in the ward's best interests
     

How Long Does Guardianship Last?

 

Guardianship typically lasts until:

  • The ward regains capacity

  • The ward passes away

  • The guardian is no longer able to serve

  • The court determines guardianship is no longer necessary
     

Can a Guardianship Be Modified or Terminated?

 

Yes, guardianship can be modified or terminated if:

  • The ward's condition improves

  • A less restrictive alternative becomes available

  • The guardian is no longer suitable
     

Any interested party can petition the court for modification or termination.
 

What Rights Does the Ward Retain?

 

Even under guardianship, the ward retains certain rights, including:

  • The right to be treated with dignity and respect

  • The right to privacy

  • The right to communicate freely with family, friends, and advocates

  • The right to make certain decisions not assigned to the guardian
     

How Does the Court Monitor Guardianships?

 

Guardians must:

  • File initial inventory of the ward's assets (for estate guardianships)

  • Submit annual reports on the ward's condition and finances

  • Seek court approval for certain actions, such as selling property
     

What Training is Required for Guardians in Washington State?

 

Lay guardians must complete a training program approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts within 90 days of appointment. Professional guardians have more extensive training requirements.
 

Can Family Members Be Paid for Serving as Guardians?

 

Family member guardians can petition the court for reasonable compensation, but it's not automatic. Professional guardians are typically paid from the ward's estate.
 

What if There's a Dispute About Guardianship?

 

Disputes can arise over:

  • Whether guardianship is necessary

  • Who should serve as guardian

  • Decisions made by the guardian
     

These disputes are resolved through court hearings, where all interested parties can present their case.
 

How Can I Plan to Avoid Guardianship?

 

To potentially avoid guardianship:

  • Create a comprehensive estate plan

  • Execute a Durable Power of Attorney

  • Prepare an Advance Healthcare Directive

  • Consider setting up a Living Trust
     

What is Emergency Guardianship?

 

In urgent situations where an individual is at immediate risk of harm, the court can appoint an emergency guardian for up to 60 days while the full guardianship process is completed.
 

How Does Guardianship Differ from Conservatorship?

 

In Washington State, the term "guardianship" covers both personal and financial decision-making. Some states use "conservatorship" to refer specifically to financial management, but Washington uses "guardianship of the estate" for this purpose.
 

Can a Washington Guardianship Be Transferred to Another State?

 

Yes, guardianships can be transferred if the ward moves to another state. This involves coordination between the courts in both states.
 

How Much Does it Cost to Establish Guardianship?

 

Costs can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case. Expenses may include:

  • Court filing fees

  • Attorney fees

  • Guardian ad Litem fees

  • Medical evaluation costs

 

In some cases, these costs can be paid from the ward's estate.
 

Why Choose Duncan Law PLLC for Guardianship Matters?

 

At Duncan Law PLLC, we offer:

  • Extensive experience in Washington State guardianship law

  • Compassionate guidance through complex legal processes

  • Comprehensive estate planning services

  • Clear communication and support

  • Commitment to protecting the rights and interests of vulnerable adults
     

Whether you're considering guardianship for a loved one or need assistance with an existing guardianship, we're here to help. Contact us today to discuss your specific situation and explore your options.
 

Phone: 206-237-7714

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