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When is guardianship necessary in estate planning?

Estate planning does not always just involve preparing for asset distribution after your death. It also focuses on your treatment towards the end of your life. Many Seattle residents fail to acknowledge this, resulting in their relatives and friends worrying about what will happen once they become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Most often appoint a power of attorney to someone they trust, which allows the person to act and make important financial and medical decisions for them once they become incapable of doing so. Otherwise, the court could assign the person “guardian” or “conservator”. If given the opportunity, many would opt to assign a power of attorney while they still have the ability to think clearly and choose what they want. However, there are several situations in which a guardianship is the only option to decide for someone when they cannot decide for themselves.

You lack a power of attorney

As previously mentioned, not a lot of people consider their elderly needs when they perform estate planning. Those that choose not to have a durable power of attorney assign multiple ones to different people to distribute control of their medical and financial choices. If no power of attorney is selected at all or if there is an area that was uncovered in their plans, a guardian can be appointed by the Washington courts to help make important decisions for the incapacitated. This occurs more when the person has no relatives alive or willing to take this responsibility.

Your power of attorney is abusive

Some prefer to let the government select someone because they are afraid a power of attorney would have too much control over their finances. Friends and family that take notice of any exploitation or physical abuse can contact the Department of Elder Affairs Abuse to report this behavior. This is less likely to happen with guardians because they must periodically report their progress to the Washington courts.

You refuse help from your friends and family

Elderly men and women in Seattle who develop mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s or dementia can have a hard time accepting help from others. If children or relatives of the victim know that they are no longer mentally capable of signing power of attorney documents, they can ask the court to appoint a guardian. Even before becoming mentally or physically incapacitated, you may not agree with how your family wants to treat you and your assets when you get older, so you might request a guardian yourself.

With how crucial a guardian or power of attorney can be near the end of your life, it is crucial to discuss this with your estate planning lawyer to determine the best course of action.

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