Spokane Guardianship & Conservatorship Lawyers
Guardianships, conservatorships, and other protective arrangements have an important place in Washington probate and trust law. These arrangements ensure that your loved ones have someone to speak for them when they can’t advocate for themselves. The elder law and probate attorneys at Moulton Law Offices can help you understand the scope and purpose of these arrangements and help you obtain guardianship or conservatorship where necessary. We can also guide you through the many options available to help a family member in need without having to create guardianship or conservatorship. With knowledge in hand, you can make the best decisions to protect your family. Our law firm is here to support you through that process. Contact our experienced Spokane guardianship & conservatorship lawyers today.
Who Can Benefit From a Guardianship or Conservatorship in Washington?
The following individuals could benefit from having a guardian or conservator look after them and their personal and financial needs:
- A child turning 18 with a cognitive disability that keeps them from managing their finances and personal matters
- Individuals who cannot protect themselves from being exploited, neglected or assaulted
- A person who cannot live alone due to dementia or related conditions
What Is the Difference Between a Guardian and a Conservator?
A guardian attends to the health and personal needs of an individual, while a conservator is concerned with the individual’s finances, property and contractual obligations. It is not unusual for a person to need both a guardian and a conservator, or for one person to fill both roles for an individual.
A guardian/conservator serves as an advocate for a person in need. For example, the guardian/conservator can choose or advocate for a safe and suitable living situation that is appropriate to the person’s specific needs, considering the desires of the individual and what arrangement is least restrictive and maximizes the individual’s independence.
Washington law also provides courts with the discretion to order less restrictive alternatives to adult guardianships or conservatorships. These are known as protective arrangements under Washington law. An adult or adult’s conservator can petition for a protective arrangement instead of guardianship, while an individual or guardian or other interested person can petition for a protective arrangement instead of conservatorship. Protective arrangements can cover matters such as medical treatment, visitation with specific people, establishing eligibility for benefits, managing or selling property, ratifying or invalidating contracts, and other matters as outlined in the court order.
What Is the Process for Appointing a Guardian/Conservator?
A guardianship or conservatorship is established in a judicial proceeding in Superior Court. The judge appoints a guardian, conservator, or both, depending on the evidence provided. The court will fashion the limits, scope and extent of the guardianship or conservatorship, keeping the individual’s loss of independence to a minimum as appropriate.
A guardian or conservator can be a person, such as a family member, or it could be a professional agency or corporate fiduciary, such as a bank’s trust department.
Guardianships can be partial, known as limited guardianships, or full, known as plenary guardianships. A full guardianship will grant the guardian all powers and responsibilities outlined in state law. In partial guardianship, the scope of the guardianship is limited as specified in the court order.
The court can also grant emergency guardianship, where the scope of the guardianship is limited to the identified emergent needs. An emergency guardianship can last for up to 60 days and be extended for an additional 60 days.
Washington law and the courts also recognize other alternatives to guardianships and conservatorships that might be less restrictive. These include supported decision-making agreements, which do not require court proceedings to establish and provide a process for an individual to assist another with medical decisions, finances, or whatever is needed. The agreement can be fashioned according to the individual’s needs and is valid once duly signed, witnessed and notarized.
Avoid Guardianships and Conservatorships Through Careful Planning
The above procedures apply to an individual who might require guardianship or conservatorship due to conditions such as developmental disabilities, but an aging adult might also come to need similar care due to age-related illnesses. As part of our comprehensive estate planning assistance at Moulton Law Offices, we craft a complete set of powers of attorney, healthcare documents, and other advance directives that can be used if a previously capable person becomes incompetent or incapacitated due to injury or illness, either temporarily or permanently. Having these documents in place removes the need to go to court for guardianship or conservatorship after some unforeseen event.
Contact Moulton Law Offices for Help With Guardianship and Conservatorship in Spokane
If you need help establishing a guardianship, conservatorship or protective arrangement for yourself or a loved one, or for guidance in planning ways to avoid guardianship while still ensuring proper care, the attorneys at Moulton Law Offices, P.S., have the knowledge, skills and dedication to help you protect yourself and your family. Call our experienced Spokane guardianship and conservatorship lawyers today.