When people reach the age of 18, the law presumes them to have legal capacity - that is, all adults are presumed to be able to make their own decisions. This legal presumption applies even if a person has a developmental delay or other disability which in fact interferes with decision-making.
The legal presumption of capacity also continues even when a person, later in life, develops cognitive impairment from a stroke, Alzheimer's Disease, or other dementia.
Only a Court can overcome the legal presumption of capacity. A guardianship case is how the Court finds a person legally incapacitated.
In Washington, both family members and professionals can be guardians. A family member who wants to serve as guardian must complete a Mandatory Lay Guardian training course. Professional guardians must complete more extensive training and must be certified by and monitored by the State.
Guardianship can protect people who cannot protect themselves, but it is not always the only or best option. Estate planning documents such as durable powers of attorney or trusts can sometimes be better options.
If you would like to learn more about guardianship or alternatives, we'd love to help if we can. We welcome your questions.