Some families face the tough reality that a parent has lost the ability to handle their personal or financial affairs. They fear that their loved one is no longer fit to live alone or could lose all their money unless someone steps in and takes charge of the financial and personal duties of the parent.

In the event a parent appeared mentally incapacitated, adult children may ask a court to appoint a guardian for their parent. Washington state courts appoint a guardian ad litem in every guardianship. The guardian ad litem plays a critical role in the guardianship process. If you seek a guardian for a parent, a court will appoint a guardian ad litem to act in the best interests of your loved one.

Definition of a guardian ad litem

According to the Cornell Law School, a guardian ad litem differs from a traditional guardian or conservator because a guardian ad litem only acts on behalf of a ward during a single case. Courts appoint guardians ad litem for incapacitated adults or for children in abuse or child custody cases. A guardian ad litem can act as a factfinder to the court, making recommendations on actions that would best benefit a ward.

Recommendations for future guardianship

Since appointing a guardian means removing certain rights from a ward, courts will want to know if your relative truly needs a guardian. According to the American Bar Association, a guardian ad litem may investigate the case of a ward to find out if a guardianship is necessary. If so, the guardian ad litem will make conclusions about what kind of guardianship the ward needs, the extent of the guardianship powers, and who will act as the guardian. The guardian ad litem will make these recommendations to a court.

Some people have concerns about a guardian taking away too much power from a relative. The work of a guardian ad litem will help determine the needs of your relative to find a form of guardianship that is the least restrictive possible. A court is not required to follow the recommendations of the guardian ad litem, but they are often differential to the guardian ad litem as an impartial third party charged with representing the best interests of the ward.