A guardianship is a legal relationship between a competent person and an incapacitated person. A certified professional guardian is an individual or corporation that acts as a guardian or other fiduciary, for incapacitated individuals with whom they have no personal tie. In Washington State, certified professional guardians are required to adhere to standards of practice and ethical guidelines. They are also to maintain a certain number of continuing education credits bi-annually. Those credits, as well as the activities of professional guardians are overseen by the Washington State Certified Professional Guardian Board.
While a lay person such as a family member may be appointed as a guardian, in some cases there is no such person available who is willing and able to act as a guardian. In these cases, a professional guardian may be requested by the petitioner, recommended by the guardian ad litem, or appointed by the court. This is especially true in cases where there is a complex estate to manage that may require specialized skills or knowledge, as well as in cases where there is a history of abuse or exploitation of the incapacitated person.
Some examples of people who would qualify for guardianship are a developmentally disabled child who turned 18 and is no longer considered incapacitated by minority, a person who is unable to communicate or take care of themselves due to an accident or the frailties associated with the aging process, or an individual who would be at serious risk of harm or exploitation if left without someone to help care for them. Guardianships are usually used for disabled or elderly adults; however, guardianships can be established for anyone, including minor children in certain circumstances, such as managing assets received from a lawsuit or settlement.
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