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When an adult lacks the capacity to care for himself or herself

As the population of our country continues to age, more people -- including many here in the District of Columbia -- may end up needing long-term care because of an illness or incapacitation. When an adult lacks the capacity to care for himself or herself, it becomes necessary for someone -- usually a family member -- to step forward and take over that individual's care. In some cases, it may be necessary to obtain a guardianship and conservatorship to handle the health care and financial affairs of a loved one.

A guardianship allows another person to make health care decisions for a loved one who is not able to do so for himself or herself. A conservatorship, on the other hand, provides for someone to take over the financial affairs of an incapacitated person. When an individual does not have a health care or durable power of attorney, it is necessary to petition the court for one or both.

Upon filing a petition, the court will examine the circumstances that precipitated the filing and why the filer or someone else should be put in charge of an individual's affairs. A physician or other medical personnel qualified to make a determination of incapacity must provide a certified statement regarding the individual to be filed with the petition. Once a guardian and/or conservator is appointed, he or she will be responsible for providing the court with regular updates. An attorney familiar with these matters could prove invaluable in ensuring that everything is done correctly and in accordance with the law.

For anyone in the District of Columbia who discovers that a loved one lacks the capacity to care for himself or herself, the first order of business would be to determine whether he or she previously executed powers of attorney that would be effective in the event of incapacitation. In the absence of such documents, it is important for a guardian and/or conservator to be appointed as soon as possible. Further information on this topic can be reviewed on our site.

Source: edlc.com, "Guardianships & Conservatorships", , Aug. 22, 2014

Source: edlc.com, "Guardianships & Conservatorships", , Aug. 22, 2014

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