Bailey bill granting more autonomy for state’s vulnerable becomes law

After unanimous approval by the Legislature, Senate Bill 5691, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor was signed by the Governor today. The new law which goes into effect July 22 requires a court to consider less-restrictive alternatives to guardianship – such as power of attorney or a trust – to provide for the needs of impaired individuals.

“There are circumstances where a guardianship just doesn’t make sense,” said Bailey. “Even though guardians appointed by the court are vetted, there are still instances where an abuse of that relationship can happen. Guardianship provides wide latitude for a court-appointed individual to have complete control over a vulnerable person’s life, including finances and social interaction. We need to be sure all potential suitable alternatives are available.”

The legislation stipulates that courts must modify or even terminate guardianship when other tools like power of attorney or trusts can provide for the needs of an incapacitated individual. It also would require the courts to consider relevant factors such as medical history and testimony of those close to the person when considering guardianship.

“This bill is a win-win on all accounts,” said Sandi Ando, chair of the public policy committee of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Washington. “It maintains protection and services for vulnerable individuals who need assistance while it avoids unnecessary intrusion on and respect for individual rights. Thank you to Senator Bailey and all others who helped ensure its passage.”