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How is a guardian in Washington selected?

In Washington, guardianships are a legal means of assuring the protection and well-being of a person who cannot make decisions because of their functional limitations. Laws govern this position of trust, which can be exercised by one or more individuals.

A guardian manages the affairs of person who is incapacitated by a disability such as mental illness or deterioration or physical or development disability who are unable to make routine decisions or who can harm themselves by making these decisions. After the filing of a petition and a hearing, courts appoint guardians to assume the rights of the incapacitated person to make decisions about their daily life in the best interests of that person.

Guardians take an oath and must file an inventory or report on the person's assets and other financial matters at scheduled times. A guardian's power cannot exceed the need to meet the person's needs resulting from their incapacity. Guardians have no financial responsibility for earlier debts.

Guardians usually have the legal responsibility of granting access to confidential documents and making decisions on education, counseling, the person's residence and medical needs. They also assume responsibility for litigating or settling lawsuits, borrowing or lending money, debt collection, travel and the ownership or management of real estate, income and other property.

Most guardianships have powers over person and the estate. Guardians of the person deal with medical matters, living situation, marital issues and other personal matters. A guardian of the estate deals with property, income and financial matters. Courts can also appoint limit guardians for individuals who can still mostly care for themselves but need assistance with some matters in their life.

A temporary guardian may be appointed with restricted powers and responsibilities. The protection and well-being of the person who needs the guardian is the primary concern.

In addition to specific legal requirements such as age and certification, a guardian is usually an individual in the life of the person who needs the guardian. They should know the needs and preferences of that person. Courts must be able to have trust and confidence in a guardian.

A lawyer can help with the selection and approval of a guardian. They may provide advice on a relationship that protects the well-being and wishes of the person who needs this relationship.

Source: The Arc Washington State, "Guardianship," Accessed May 2, 2017

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