Guardianship Laws by State

“The Right to an Attorney in Guardianship Proceedings”

If you faced a guardianship petition, do you know if you would have a right to an attorney?  Or whether the attorney would be allowed to argue for what you want? 

The Washington, D.C., Guardianship Law says that adults in that situation can have an attorney, but the attorney must advocate for their “legitimate interests.”  In a 2010 decision called In Re Martel, the D.C. Court of Appeals said that this duty can be met by an attorney advocating for the person’s “best interests,” as determined by a court-appointed guardian ad litem – even if the person disagrees. 

In other words, if the person does not want a guardian, but the guardian ad litem says a guardian is needed, that person’s own attorney can argue against the person’s wishes and say to the court: “My client should lose.” So, the person whose rights are at stake may have no one to fight for him or her. 

Quality Trust is working to fix this problem.  In the summer of 2012, we researched the guardianship laws in all 50 states to see if we could find a better system.  We reviewed cases, regulations, ethical standards, and other requirements on the right to an attorney in guardianship cases and whether attorneys were allowed to argue for their clients’ expressed wishes, rather than what someone else says is in their “best interests.”

Want to know how the system works in your state? 
Select the state to view guardianship laws by state

Map of United StatesState Profile: MaineState Profile: New HampshireState Profile: New HampshireState Profile: VermontState Profile: VermontState Profile: MassachusettsState Profile: MassachusettsState Profile: Rhode IslandState Profile: Rhode IslandState Profile: ConnecticutState Profile: ConnecticutState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: HawaiiState Profile: AlaskaState Profile: AlaskaState Profile: AlaskaState Profile: AlaskaState Profile: AlaskaState Profile: North CarolinaState Profile: South CarolinaState Profile: MichiganState Profile: VirginiaState Profile: New YorkState Profile: New YorkState Profile: New JerseyState Profile: New JerseyState Profile: PennsylvaniaState Profile: DelawareState Profile: DelawareState Profile: MarylandState Profile: MarylandState Profile: West VirginiaState Profile: VirginiaState Profile: North CarolinaState Profile: South CarolinaState Profile: GeorgiaState Profile: FloridaState Profile: OhioState Profile: AlabamaState Profile: IndianaState Profile: MichiganState Profile: MichiganState Profile: WisconsinState Profile: IllinoisState Profile: KentuckyState Profile: TennesseeState Profile: MississippiState Profile: MinnesotaState Profile: IowaState Profile: MissouriState Profile: ArkansasState Profile: LouisianaState Profile: TexasState Profile: OklahomaState Profile: KansasState Profile: NebraskaState Profile: South DakotaState Profile: North DakotaState Profile: MontanaState Profile: WyomingState Profile: ColoradoState Profile: New MexicoState Profile: UtahState Profile: ArizonaState Profile: NevadaState Profile: IdahoState Profile: CaliforniaState Profile: OregonState Profile: Washington

Compiled by Morgan K. Whitlatch, Senior Attorney at Quality Trust, with invaluable assistance from legal interns Matthew Casale, Julie Case, Morgan Given, Evan Greenberger, Lara Kasten, Susanne Obrock, and Amanda Nagrotsky.