File a Petition for Guardianship in a Washington Superior Court. Forms are online for most counties. Anyone can file a petition for guardianship of anyone in Washington, but it is of course up to the court whether to grant the request.
The Petition Needs to Contain Certain Things
A petitioner needs to specify, among other things, whether she wants limited guardianship or full guardianship, and over financial or broader decisions, as well as alleging that the person is incapacitated. RCW 11.88.010(1)(a) "[I]capacitated as to person [means] a significant risk of personal harm based upon a demonstrated inability to adequately provide for nutrition, health, housing, or physical safety. [I]ncapacitated as to the person's estate [means] the individual is at significant risk of financial harm based upon a demonstrated inability to adequately manage property or financial affairs. [I]ncapacity is a legal not a medical decision, based upon a demonstration of management insufficiencies over time in the area of person or estate." RCW 11.88.010(1)(a)-(c). See also RCW 11.88.030 for a full list of what to include in the petition.
What to Expect On Date of Petition
On the first day, the court will appoint a Guardian ad litem (GAL) to evaluate the circumstances and make a recommendation (1) whether or not a guardianship is warranted, and (2) if yes, who should be guardian. A GAL makes her determination based on what is in the best interests of the alleged incapacitated person. RCW 11.88.090. Also, the court will also appoint representation (an attorney) to the alleged incapacitated person, if that person has $3000 or less in his estate (the court generally finds more funds than this means the person can afford representation). The appointed attorney will argue what the alleged incapacitated person wants/wishes. An alleged incapacitated person (AIP) has the right to a jury trial, to present evidence on his behalf, and to be present during the proceedings. He may also choose to go to mediation or arbitration. Last, the court will also set a date for the hearing 60 days from the date of petition.
Serving Notice of Petition
Notice must be personally served to the alleged incapacitated person and the GAL within 5 court days of the petition was filed. It must include a clear and easily readable statement of the legal rights of the alleged incapacitated person that could be restricted or transferred to a guardian by a guardianship order as well as the right to counsel of choice and to a jury trial on the issue of incapacity. RCW 11.88.030(4)(b). See 11.88.030(4) for the language to use.
The GAL will choose a qualified professional (a physician, psychologist, or advanced registered nurse practitioner) to conduct an examination. The AIP must meet with the chosen professional within 30 days. If there is objection to the qualified professional, another may be chosen, but must be approved by the court. The professional will write a medical report based on the examination within 30 days. See RCW 11.88.045.
At The Guardianship Hearing
At the hearing 60 days later, the court will hear evidence and witnesses, then make a determination of capacities and appoint a guardian or not, based on its findings. RCW 11.88.095 describes what will be in every disposition by the court. If a guardian is appointed, she must subscribe an oath and, unless dispensed with by order of the court. RCWQ 11.88.100.
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