When a District of Columbia resident lacks the capacity to care for himself or herself, a trusted family member or friend may step forward as an agent in accordance with powers of attorney for health and finances previously executed by the incapacitated person. In the absence of these documents, it is necessary to obtain court approval to act on that person's behalf. A guardianship is established with a minimum of fanfare and interruption in the individual's care.
Unfortunately, in other cases, several different family members -- and even friends -- may come forward to contest an existing guardianship and/or apply for the position themselves. Family and friends of a prominent doctor in the Lone Star State began battling over who would be guardian over his person and estate after he suffered a stroke in Dec. 2013 that left him unable to care for himself. The court appointed one person (a daughter from his second marriage) to handle his financial affairs and another person (an accountant) to take care of him.
The Texas doctor's eldest daughter stepped in claiming that she should be her father's guardian because she is the oldest of his children. From that point, other individuals became embroiled in the matter and made applications and filed contests of their own. When the doctor died, that did not end the controversy. He passed away on May 4 and has still not been buried or cremated.
Having a loved one who lacks the capacity to care for himself or herself can be challenging. Establishing a guardianship will give someone the legal authority needed to conduct that family member's affairs and ensure proper health care is available. The problem arises when no one agrees on who should fulfill these roles. This is one reason why District of Columbia residents are encouraged to prepare powers of attorney in advance in order to make their preferences known. That does not mean that someone may not contest an appointment, but at least family, friends and even the courts are aware of who he or she trusted.
Source: dailytribune.net, "Legal battle continues over late doctor's remains, estate", Marcia Davis, May 11, 2015