Authority over someone’s affairs

Once a child reaches the age of majority, usually at 18, they automatically have the right to make decisions for themselves. Guardianship removes such rights.

Chicago Guardianship lawyerThe process begins when an interested person alleges an individual is unable to safely or properly manage their affairs (the “respondent”) due to some mental, physical or developmental disability.   If successful (now the “petitioner”), the court will appoint a guardian to provide assistance for the disabled person, who is now referred to as the “ward”.

This process is not to be taken lightly.  Contact us before you proceed, as there may be less intensive and costly options that will accomplish the same goals.

There are different types of guardianships.  A “plenary” guardianship places the guardian in control of all aspects of the ward’s life.  There are two types.  A “guardianship of the person” confers all personal, physical and life-style decisions – housing, health-care, education, social needs – to the guardian.    A “guardianship of the estate” confers authority over the ward’s finances.  Note that exposing ones family or self to “want or suffering” due to reckless behavior, such as through the use of drugs or alcohol, can be grounds for such a guardianship.

The court may also tailor the guardianship to fit the needs of the ward or appoint different people to fulfill different duties.  The courts also require follow-up and reporting on the status of the ward’s condition, financial status and other issues that fall under their proper care.  The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem (typically a lawyer) to be the “eyes and ears” of the court and make recommendations, among other duties.

Note that if the respondent is fighting their petition, this process will be played out in public.  Until deemed incompetent, they have rights and the process can become contentious.

Standby and Short-Term Guardianships

Court appointed permanent guardians may appoint a standby guardian, in the event they cannot fulfill their original duties.  These appointments follow the same court designated process and if the standby is activated, the appointment lasts 60 days.  (During which, the entire guardianship court procedure begins anew.)  A short-term guardian may be appointed by the permanent guardian for periods when they are unable to perform their duties.  This can be accomplished through a simple form and without court involvement.

However, they can be contested and lead to a new round of hearings.

Petitions for modification or even termination of a guardianship can be filed at any time and it is at the discretion of the judge to determine what is in the ward’s best interests.

Note: Short term guardianships for minors are often overlooked and are important, easy to execute documents.  They are especially useful today, as health-care laws make information during emergencies difficult (or impossible) to come by for others, especially during accidents and other medical emergencies.  Illinois has a Statutory Form for Appointment of Short-term Guardian.  Ask us about it.