Genesis is an Everett-based law firm whose attorneys offer guardianship representation and other estate and family law services to Snohomish County, WA. The firm’s hallmark is its unique ability to provide excellent work product at lower rates than the vast majority of competitors in the Puget Sound region. Most of Genesis’s lawyers practice from the firm’s headquarters near the Snohomish County courthouse, but a few meet clients at a satellite location in Seattle. To reach either office, call the firm’s toll-free number, 866-631-0028, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a guardianship? A guardianship is the process by which a court appoints a guardian for an alleged incapacitated person, or AIP. An alleged incapacitated person is generally an adult who lacks the physical or mental wherewithal to make necessary decisions for themselves, often because of age, injury, substance abuse, or disability. The guardian essentially becomes the incapacitated person’s agent, making beneficial decisions on that person’s behalf.
What is a ward? A ward is the incapacitated person, though the term is rarely used.
Who can start a guardianship proceeding? Nearly anyone can petition for a guardianship, but usually the petitioner is a relative or loved one.
What if a person just needs a little help? Judges only appoint a guardian when necessary, often dismissing guardianship cases if the alleged incapacitated person does not want assistance and seems reasonably capable. Similarly, judges can appoint guardians with limited decision-making authority, sometimes called a limited guardianship.
What are ways of avoiding a guardianship? Guardianships are an extreme remedy that should only be used in the absence of other solutions. A more favored means of providing for an incapacitated individual’s decision-making is a power of attorney, which is a legal document someone can use to grant his or her decision-making authority to someone else. Powers of attorney are drafted and signed when the person in question still possesses the physical and mental capacity to contract, which means they generally cannot be implemented once a person becomes incapacitated. Once a person becomes incapacitated, alternatives to guardianship are few and limited. One potential option at that stage is a special needs trust.
A relative has asked the court to appoint a guardian for me, but I do not need one. Can you help me? Yes. An alleged incapacitated person may hire an attorney to argue against a guardianship. In fact, the state is often obligated to appoint and pay for an attorney for you if you lack the ability to hire one yourself.
What is a Guardian ad Litem? A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is someone the court appoints to investigate whether a guardianship is necessary. The GAL then reports back to the court and provides a recommendation. Judges usually follow GAL recommendations, though not always.
Who can be a guardian? Nearly anyone can become a guardian, so long as they have a clean record, are of age, and are willing to serve.
Are there ways of preventing a guardian from abusing his or her power? There are many checks and balances against a guardian’s abuse of power. One is that a judge should order the guardian to post a bond as financial security against wrongdoing and/or order the guardian to place funds in a blocked account. The court then oversees the guardian by requiring periodic submissions, such as an inventory of assets, personal care plan, accountings, and status reports. Interested parties can similarly oversee the guardian by asking to be placed on the recipient list for the guardian’s periodic court submissions. If the guardian abuses his or her power, the court can remove him or her and assess liability.
I’m an alleged incapacitated person. Can a guardian change my will or force me into a nursing home? No, these are among the limits on a guardian’s powers.