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Establishing guardianship of a person in Illinois

If people become unable to make responsible decisions regarding their finances and care, the court may see fit to appoint a guardian to assist them.

In 2014, one out of every seven people in the U.S. was at least 65-years-old, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As people in Illinois, and elsewhere, age, so too do their needs. In situations when adults become unable to care for themselves, their families may seek to establish guardianships. A guardianship may also be needed for persons with developmental disabilities or persons who experience a debilitating accident or illness. A guardian is a person or agency that is charged with managing the affairs of someone who cannot handle them on his or her own.

What is guardianship of a person?

There are numerous factors that may affect people's ability to make responsible decisions and care for themselves. This includes mental deterioration, mental illness, physical incapacity or developmental disability. In certain circumstances, such factors may lead the court to see it fit to appoint another decision maker. The Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission points out that those who are appointed as guardians may be responsible for deciding issues relating to the residential situations, social services, medical treatment and other needs of the person with disabilities.

Depending on the capabilities and needs of people with disabilities, the court is able to customize the guardianship and the authority it provides. For example, the court may appoint a plenary guardian in situations when people have little to no decision-making capacity. This type of guardianship grants to the named representative full decision-making authority regarding the personal care and finances of the person with disabilities. The law provides that a plenary guardian should be appointed only if the person with disabilities lacks the capability to make decisions for themselves. If a person has some disabilities, the court should appoint a limited guardian with the authority to meet the immediate needs of the person, while preserving as much decision making power as possible. Limited guardians are responsible for making only those personal care or financial-related decisions directed by the court.

The legal process

When seeking to establish a guardianship, there are a number of requirements and procedures that must be met and adhered to. The first step is to obtain a report from a licensed physician certifying that a person has disabilities and needs a guardian. People should ensure these reports include all of the necessary information, including a description of the person's deficits, problems, abilities and skills.

After collecting the physician's report, petitioners or their legal representatives must prepare the following: a petition, rights notice, summons, notice to the interested parties, order, oath, bond, statement and order, according to the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission. Once the necessary documentation is filed with the court, a hearing will be scheduled and the person will be served with a summons. During the hearing, the court may listen to witness testimony and review the pertinent documents in order to determine if it is necessary and appropriate to appoint a guardian.

Obtaining legal assistance

Even if people need or want a guardian, the process of establishing a guardianship in Illinois may be complicated. Therefore, it may benefit those who are considering petitioning the court to appoint a guardian for a loved one to consult with an attorney. A lawyer may explain what is expected of them and help ensure they meet all of the necessary requirements.