Guardianship can be the most restrictive alternative available to a person in need of personal or financial assistance. Guardianship always means the involvement of a court, with the likelihood of a public examination of one's private affairs, and the costs associated with litigation and on-going compliance with court directives and supervision. All possible alternatives should be explored before instituting guardianship proceedings. Competent medical and
legal professionals, social workers, caretakers, family and friends should consult and agree on a suitable course of action whenever possible.
The use of representative or protective payeeships, financial counseling and bill paying assistance programs, living trusts, homemaker and other in-home support programs, and other advocacy services may avoid the need for guardianship.
What is a Guardian?
A guardian is a person, institution or agency appointed by the Probate Court to manage the affairs of another, called the ward.
Who may have a Guardian appointed to manage his/her affairs?
The law presumes that an adult eighteen years of age or older is capable of handling his/her own affairs. A guardian may be appointed to serve as a substitute decision maker if a person is disabled because of (1) mental deterioration, (2) physical incapacity, (3) mental illness, or (4) developmental disability. The disability must prevent the person from making or communicating responsible decisions about his/her personal affairs. A guardian may also be appointed if, because of "gambling, idleness, debauchery, or excessive use of intoxicants or drugs", a person spends or wastes his/her estate so as to expose himself/herself or his/her family to want or suffering. In either case, guardianship may be necessary to protect the person and to promote the interests of others, such as service providers or creditors.
Who may act as a Guardian?
Any person at least 18 years of age who is of sound mind, has not been convicted of a felony, is a resident of the United States and is acceptable to the court may be named guardian of the person and estate of an adult with disabilities.
Any agency, public or private, may serve as guardian of the person or estate, if the court finds that it is capable of providing an active guardianship program. The court shall not appoint as guardian an agency which is providing residential services to the person with disabilities. This is to ensure against any conflict of interest.
A banking institution may be appointed guardian of the estate but not guardian of the person.
There are several types of guardianship available under the Illinois Probate Act. It is important that all available options be considered to determine the appropriate form of guardianship for a specific person with disabilities. In each case, consideration should be given to requesting either limited or plenary guardianship. Limited guardianship is used when the person with disabilities can make some, but not all, decisions regarding his/her personal care and/or finances.
The basic forms guardianship can take are as follows:
A. Limited Guardianship - used when the person with disabilities can make some, but not all, decisions regarding his/her person and/or estate. "Guardianship shall be ordered only to the extent necessitated by the individual's mental, physical and adaptive limitations." A limited guardian makes only those decisions about personal care and/or finances which the ward cannot make. The powers of a limited guardian must be specifically listed in the court order. The ward retains the power to make all other decisions regarding his/her person or estate. Limited guardianship may be used to appoint a limited guardian of the person, a limited guardian of the estate, or both.
The duration of the appointment cannot exceed a cumulative total of 60 days in any 12 month period. A guardian may not appoint the Office of State Guardian or a public guardian as a short term guardian, without the written consent of the state or public guardian or an authorized representative.