Law Office of John S. Palmer Attorney at Law

(425) 455-5513

Avoiding Guardianship

Posted Saturday, May 30, 2015 by John S. Palmer

Under Washington’s guardianship statutes, a guardian can be appointed to manage the affairs of an incapacitated person. However, guardianship often comes at a price, both in terms of ongoing legal fees as well as losing various civil rights, such as the right to make medical decisions or handle finances.

The law does not permit a guardian to be appointed if a less restrictive alternative is available, such as a durable power of attorney appointing someone to manage a principal’s affairs. However if a person becomes incapacitated without one, it can be difficult to find a professional guardian willing to serve in the event there is no friend or family member willing to serve for free.

To address this problem, the legislature created the Office of Public Guardianship in 2007 to help incapacitated persons who need help but cannot afford it, by contracting with certified professional guardians to serve either pro bono or on a reduced-fee basis. Often these individuals have diminished capacity, but still have the ability to sign a power of attorney and other legal documents.

A bill pending in the state legislature, HB 1839, would authorize the Office of Public Guardianship to offer “supported decision making assistance” by contracting with professional fiduciaries willing to serve as trustee of a trust, representative payee for social security or other public benefits, or attorney-in-fact under a durable power of attorney for those without the means to establish these things themselves.

The Senate report for the bill notes that it would permit the Office of Public Guardianship to use its funds more efficiently, because these alternatives to guardianship are less expensive to set up and maintain. This is because a guardianship requires ongoing court supervision, as well as obtaining a court order to perform certain acts. And a trust or power of attorney does not result in a formal finding of incapacity or loss of civil rights.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at (425) 455-5513, toll free at (877) 455-5513, or

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Law Office of John S. Palmer11911 NE 1st St, Ste. B204,Bellevue, WA 98005-3056