Right to counsel

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Legislation, Guardianship/Conservatorship of Adults - Protected Person

When a petition for guardianship is filed, the proposed ward or ward has a right to counsel if:  (1) the proposed ward or ward requests counsel; (2) the guardian ad litem or another person notifies the court that the proposed ward or ward is opposed to the guardianship petition; or (3) the court determines that the interests of justice so requires.  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.42(1)(a).  If the proposed ward or ward has a right to counsel pursuant to Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.42(1)(a) but is unable to obtain legal counsel, the court shall appoint legal counsel for the proposed ward or ward.  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.42(1)(c). 


Pursuant to Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.64(2)(a), a ward or the ward’s guardian may “petition for a review of incompetency, to have the guardian discharged and a new guardian appointed, or to have the guardianship limited and specific rights restored.”  If such petition is filed, the court must conduct a hearing at which the ward is present, and the ward will have the right to counsel during such hearing.  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.64(2)(b).


Notwithstanding any finding of incompetence for the ward, “the ward may retain and contract for the payment of reasonable fees to an attorney, the selection of whom is subject to court approval, in connection with proceedings involving review of the terms and conditions of the guardianship, including the question of incompetence.”  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.64(2)(b).  The court must appoint counsel if the ward is unable to obtain counsel, and if the ward is indigent, the county of jurisdiction for the guardianship must provide counsel at the county’s expense.  Wis. Stat. Ann. § 54.64(2)(b). 

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes