Guardianship and Protection of Vulnerable Adults
Sometimes, old age or disability causes people to lose the capacity to care for themselves or to manage their financial affairs. If they are at risk of causing harm to themselves or their estates, their loved one may need to take action on their behalf. If the elder has planned properly, they will have already signed a power of attorney document that designates someone to act on their behalf regarding financial and health care decisions. If you are acting under a power of attorney for someone you should understand your duties and limitations. At STIB we regularly advise fiduciaries (also called attorneys in fact) serving under powers of attorney. Make sure if you are serving as someone’s attorney in fact you do not inadvertently fall into the trap of having “no good deed go unpunished” by consulting with an attorney in our Seattle or Mercer Island office.
Despite the advisability of making a valid power of attorney, sometimes people just don’t do it, or, sadly, the person they named is acting improperly. In that case, a court guardianship may be necessary to allow someone else to manage assets and to make health care decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. Because guardianship results in significant limitations on a person’s rights, it is important to take this step cautiously. If you believe that a loved one needs a guardian to ensure his or her safety, if someone is trying to get a guardian appointed for you against your will, or if you have been appointed as a guardian and want to be sure you are executing your duties correctly, an attorney can help.
Unfortunately, sometimes elders are taken advantage of by outside parties or, all too often, by family members. In those cases a court vulnerable adult protection action may be necessary to stop the wrong-doer from having access to the elder and from doing additional harm. Our attorneys are passionate about protecting vulnerable adults. If you know a vulnerable adult who you think is being taken advantage of, please contact an attorney at STIB right away.