Planning for Incapacity: Guardianship and Conservatorship in Washington DC

Planning for potential incapacity is a crucial aspect of estate planning that allows individuals to designate trusted individuals to manage their affairs in the event they are unable to do so themselves. In Washington DC, this often involves considerations of guardianship and conservatorship. This article aims to provide essential insights into incapacity planning and the roles of guardianship and conservatorship in Washington DC.

What is Incapacity Planning?

Incapacity planning involves making legal arrangements to designate individuals to make healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so due to illness, injury, or other reasons. Establishing an incapacity plan ensures that your affairs are managed according to your wishes and best interests, even when you are unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself.

Guardianship vs. Conservatorship

  • Guardianship: A guardianship appoints a person to make healthcare and personal decisions for an incapacitated individual, also known as the ward. The guardian is responsible for decisions related to medical treatment, living arrangements, and other personal matters.
  • Conservatorship: A conservatorship appoints a person to manage the financial affairs and assets of an incapacitated individual. The conservator is responsible for handling the individual’s finances, paying bills, managing investments, and making financial decisions on their behalf.

Planning for Guardianship and Conservatorship in Washington DC

  • Advance Directives: Advance directives, such as healthcare proxies and durable powers of attorney, allow individuals to designate trusted agents to make healthcare and financial decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacity. These documents provide clear instructions and authority for agents to act on behalf of the incapacitated individual.
  • Guardianship and Conservatorship Petitions: In situations where advance directives are not in place or are insufficient to address incapacity, family members or interested parties may petition the court to appoint a guardian or conservator for the incapacitated individual. The court will evaluate the individual’s capacity and appoint suitable guardians or conservators based on the best interests of the incapacitated person.
  • Limited Guardianship and Conservatorship: In some cases, the court may grant limited guardianship or conservatorship, allowing the appointed guardian or conservator to make specific decisions or manage specific aspects of the incapacitated individual’s affairs while preserving their autonomy to the greatest extent possible.

Legal Guidance and Support

Navigating incapacity planning, guardianship, and conservatorship in Washington DC can be complex and emotionally challenging. Consulting with an experienced probate attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support in creating comprehensive incapacity plans, establishing advance directives, and petitioning the court for guardianship or conservatorship when necessary.


Planning for incapacity is a vital aspect of estate planning that allows individuals to maintain control over their affairs and ensure their best interests are protected in the event they are unable to make decisions for themselves. By understanding the roles of guardianship and conservatorship and engaging in proactive planning with the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney, individuals can safeguard their future and provide peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones. If you’re considering incapacity planning in Washington DC, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced probate law team for assistance. We’re here to provide the support and expertise you need to navigate the process and create a comprehensive plan that meets your unique needs and circumstances.