Occasionally, adults are unable to manage their personal affairs or finances. The inability to care for oneself might begin at birth with some form of retardation, or it may happen during the prime of life through catastrophic illness or injury or it might occur during the golden years in the form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Persons with such disabilities can often be a danger to themselves by leaving on a burning stove or wandering away from home. Others can be the targets of unscrupulous telemarketers or thieves who, if left to their own devices, would rob the victim of all that they own.
Kentucky law provides that if a person suffers from such a disability, a petition may be filed in District Court to determine if the respondent is disabled. “Disabled” as used in these proceedings is a legal, not a medical disability, and is measured by functional inabilities. It refers to a person 14 years of age or older who is: (a) unable to make informed decisions with respect to his personal affairs to such an extent that he lacks the capacity to provide for his physical health and safety, including but not limited to health care, food, shelter, clothing or personal hygiene; or (b) unable to make informed decisions as to his financial resources to such an extent that he lacks the capacity to manage his property effectively by those actions necessary to obtain, administer and dispose of both real and personal property. Such inability must be evidenced by acts or occurrences within six months prior to the date of filing of the petition and cannot be evidenced solely by isolated instances of negligence, improvidence or other behavior. Kentucky law requires that a jury of six persons try disability cases. The trial is a closed proceeding to respect the privacy of the respondent. The jury can find the respondent wholly disabled in terms of managing his personal and financial affairs or partially disabled. Depending on the verdict of the jury, the court will appoint a guardian (a person who manages all of the affairs of the disabled person, much like a parent manages the affairs of their minor children) or conservator (a person who only manages the finances of the disabled person) to assist the respondent. The guardian or conservator must periodically report to the court regarding the well-being of the respondent.
I have a loved one who might be disabled, what do I do?
Please complete and return this form to our office and you will then be scheduled to meet with an attorney who will discuss the guardianship process.
What do I need to bring with me?
You must know the respondent’s full name, date of birth, social security number, the names of all siblings and parents, the amount and source of any income of the respondent as well as a listing of any valuable personal property owned by the respondent.
Will I have to testify?
A person familiar with the abilities and day to day life of the respondent will have to testify at trial. Typically, questioning is non-confrontational.
How long does the process take?
The initial meeting will take about an hour. If a petition is filed, the respondent will be served with a summons informing them of the action that has been taken against them. The court will also order that an interdisciplinary team that consists of the respondent’s treating physician, a social worker and a psychologist evaluate the respondent. Each member of the team will file a report with the court regarding his or her findings and opinions regarding the abilities of the respondent. After the interdisciplinary team files its report, the case is ready for trial. The process usually takes 45 to 60 days from the initial meeting with an attorney to the actual trial and verdict.