Guardianship is a legal arrangement where the state appoints one person to make decisions on behalf of another, often an adult whom the state deems incapacitated.
The National Council on Disability reports that more than 1.3 million American adults had guardianships in place in 2022. While guardianship should protect vulnerable individuals, there are instances where contesting it becomes necessary.
1. Lack of incapacity proof
One of the primary reasons to contest guardianship is when there is insufficient evidence proving the alleged incapacitation of the adult. The court typically requires clear and convincing proof that the person is unable to make reasoned decisions about their personal or financial affairs. Contesting guardianship in such cases is important to ensure that the state has accurate information to make decisions about an individual’s life.
2. Existing advance directives
You may need to contest guardianship if the adult has already established advance directives, such as a power of attorney or a living will. These legal documents express the individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment and decision-making in case of incapacity. If these directives exist and are legally valid, the state respects them and is less likely to impose a guardian.
3. Allegations of undue influence
Another valid reason to contest guardianship arises when there are suspicions of undue influence or coercion in the appointment process. If someone has manipulated or pressured the court or the potential ward into accepting a guardian, it undermines the integrity of the guardianship process. Contesting becomes a means of safeguarding the individual’s autonomy.
4. Suitable less restrictive alternatives
Contesting guardianship is justifiable when there are less restrictive alternatives available to meet the individual’s needs. These alternatives may include supported decision-making arrangements, where the person receives assistance in making decisions without losing their autonomy entirely. The court should consider less intrusive options before appointing a guardian.
5. Conflict of interest
If there is evidence of a conflict of interest between the proposed guardian and the best interests of the adult, contesting guardianship is important. A conflict may arise if the potential guardian stands to gain financially or if their personal interests conflict with the well-being of the person in question.
Contesting guardianship is a legal recourse that serves to protect the rights and autonomy of adults facing potential guardianship. It ensures that the state makes decisions with careful consideration of the individual’s capacity and best interests.