Every year, thousands of people suffer traumatic brain injuries in the United States. While many individuals eventually recover most or all of their cognitive and physical abilities, many do not. When such a situation occurs to victims in Washington, a loved one may petition for guardianship of the injured individual to take care of their financial and medical affairs.
Understanding guardianship and wardship
Many people think of guardianships as something that only applies to minor children who no longer have their parents. However, a guardian can also take care of incapacitated adults. The court appoints guardians to advocate and make decisions for these individuals, called wards, who can no longer make or communicate sound decisions. A guardian’s responsibilities may include the following:
- Coordinating and monitoring services the ward requires
- Select medical and other providers
- Making financial decisions
- Providing the court with an accurate account of the ward’s funds.
Guardians don’t necessarily have control over all aspects of a ward’s life. The court may deem a ward incompetent in one area but able to make decisions in another. In such situations, the court may appoint someone as a limited guardian. Whenever possible, a guardian should consult an adult ward regarding decision-making.
Exploring alternatives to guardianship
Before filing a petition seeking guardianship over your loved one, you should explore alternatives, as guardianship can limit certain rights of the affected individual. Among the other options to explore include:
- Establishing durable power of attorney for health care and/or finances
- Creating living wills and trusts
- Establishing joint bank accounts
- Arranging for services like home health care
Guardianship doesn’t have to be permanent. Persons suffering traumatic brain injuries often aren’t able to communicate immediately after the incident but eventually can do so. As a guardian, you can always terminate the status and restore full rights to your loved one.