A guardian is appointed by the Superior Court of Washington to manage the care or financial affairs of an elderly or disabled person who has lost the ability to do so for him/herself. See RCW 11.88.010 for specific language.
The process of appointing a guardian over a person involves at least the following:
- A petition filed with the Court to request that a guardian be appointed. Once this petition is filed, the person becomes referred to as “an alleged incapacitated person.”
- Appointment of a Guardian ad Litem to investigate for the Court, and report back to the Court, whether or not it is necessary for the person to have a guardian. The Guardian ad Litem is a short-term role that normally ends once the guardian is appointed or the guardianship petition is dismissed.
- A medical report obtained by the Guardian ad Litem, resulting from a physician or psychologist’s evaluation of the alleged incapacitated person.
- A Court hearing, which the alleged incapacitated person is entitled to attend, in which the Guardian ad Litem presents his/her report to the Court, and the person is either found not incapacitated and therefore not in need of a guardian, or is adjudicated to be incapacitated and a guardian is appointed.
The Guardian ad Litem has a duty to ask the alleged incapacitated person if s/he wishes to resist the appointment of a guardian. If the person does wish to, the Guardian ad Litem must ask the Court to appoint an attorney to represent the incapacitated person.
If the person demonstrates the capacity to manage some of his/her affairs or care needs, a limited guardianship can be established in which the guardian takes responsibility for only those areas that the person is no longer able to manage.
The system is supposed to, at all times, uphold and advocate for the least restrictive alternative possible in protecting the alleged incapacitated person.
Ohana Fiduciary Corporation serves as full guardian, limited guardian or co-guardian (usually with a family member).