What is a Physician’s Statement and do you need one to establish a guardianship or conservatorship?
A Physician’s Statement in Support of Guardianship/Conservatorship is a form that is completed by the ward’s treating physician (or a doctor who has recently seen the ward). The doctor fills in details about when he/she last saw the proposed ward, the diagnostic impression, what behavioral evidence exists to support the guardianship/conservatorship, the diagnosis and the prognosis. The doctor also checks a box saying whether he/she supports or opposes the guardianship.
Finally, the doctor also checks a box about whether he is aware of the existence of a health care directive and, if so, what the health care directive says. Why is this important and of concern to the court? Because a health care directive is a less restrictive alternative than a guardianship, and a court will consider the fact that this is already in place when it decides whether to impose a guardianship.
You should try to obtain the Physician’s Statement before filing the guardianship petition. Sometimes the situation is pressing enough that guardianship papers are filed before a Physician’s Statement is obtained (doctors are often busy and it takes them awhile to complete the form). If you can’t get the Physician’s Statement before the petition is filed, get it completed and filed as far in advance of the hearing as you can.
A Physician’s Statement is very helpful for the court in deciding whether to grant a guardianship or conservatorship. However, it is not absolutely necessary every time. There are difficulties which sometimes make it impossible to obtain a Physician’s Statement (i.e. HIPPA; if the proposed ward did not ever sign an authorization for others to obtain information about their medical history, most doctors will refuse to fill out the form). If you can’t obtain a Physician’s Statement, you do have some options. One, if you have a medical chart note available, you could attach that to the Petition. Two, you can simply testify about your own personal observations of the proposed ward’s medical condition and behavior that supports the petition. Three, you can subpoena the doctor to testify.
Practical Tip: As we all know, the handwriting of doctors is often very difficult to read. When you get a completed Physician’s Statement from the proposed ward’s treating physician, if you can’t read some of the words, call the doctor’s nurse and ask for a translation of what has been written. That way, when you are at the court hearing, you are prepared to decipher the writing for the Court.
If you have questions about Physician’s Statements for guardianships or conservatorships, contact experienced Minnesota Guardianship Attorney Cindi Spence Matt of Matt Legal Services.