Evaluations for Legal Guardianship
A guardianship allows one person or entity to make decisions for another (the ward). Courts are tasked with establishing guardianships, and they typically appoint guardians in instances of incapacity or disability. Mental and physical disability or incapacity can involve severe and long-term conditions that impose great limitations upon an individual’s ability to take care of themselves, express themselves verbally, earn a living, and live independently of the care of others. Such a disability reflects the necessity for a combination of treatments and services.
For example, in the state of Wisconsin, the standard for legal guardianship evaluations is as follows:
54.36 Examination of proposed ward. (1) Whenever it is proposed to appoint a guardian on the ground that a proposed ward allegedly has incompetency or is a spendthrift, a physician or psychologist, or both, shall examine the proposed ward and furnish a written report stating the physician’s or psychologist’s professional opinion regarding the presence and likely duration of any medical or other condition causing the proposed ward to have incapacity or to be a spendthrift. The privilege under s. 905.04 does not apply to the report. The petitioner shall provide a copy of the report to the proposed ward or his or her counsel, the guardian ad litem, and the petitioner’s attorney, if any.
Prior to the examination on which the report is based, the guardian ad litem, physician, or psychologist shall inform the proposed ward that statements made by the proposed ward may be used as a basis for a finding of incompetency or a finding that he or she is a spendthrift, that he or she has a right to refuse to participate in the examination, absent a court order, or speak to the physician or psychologist, and that the physician or psychologist is required to report to the court even if the proposed ward does not speak to the physician or psychologist. The issuance of such a warning to the proposed ward prior to each examination establishes a presumption that the proposed ward understands that he or she need not speak to the physician or psychologist. Nothing in this section prohibits the use of a report by a physician or psychologist that is based on an examination of the proposed ward by the physician or psychologist before filing the petition for appointment of a guardian, but the court will consider the recency of the report in determining whether the report sufficiently describes the proposed ward’s current state and in determining the weight to be given to the report. (2) A petitioner or guardian ad litem may petition the court for an order requiring the proposed ward to submit to an examination by a licensed physician or psychologist pursuant to s. 804.10 (1). (3) A physician or psychologist who examines a proposed ward under a court order requiring the examination may, without the informed consent of the proposed ward, obtain access to the patient health care records and treatment records of the proposed ward.