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Becoming the Guardian of a Disabled Adult

Posted on in Guardianship

Becoming the Guardian of a Disabled AdultBeing an adult does not mean someone is capable of making his or her own decisions. Adults may be unable to care for themselves because of:

  • Mental illness;
  • Developmental disability; or
  • Dementia.

To help adults with disabilities, an Illinois court may appoint a guardian to oversee his or her protection, health and estate. However, a potential guardian must prove that the disabled adult is incapable of caring for him or herself.

Types of Guardianship

A legal adult of sound mind and without felony convictions may apply to become the guardian of a disabled adult. There are several forms of guardianship with different levels of responsibility:

  • Personal guardianship, in charge of medical and residency decisions;
  • Estate guardianship, in charge of financial decisions;
  • Plenary guardianship, responsible for personal and estate decisions; and
  • Limited guardianship, responsible for specifically designated decisions.

Courts may also appoint another person as a standby or short-term guardian in case the primary guardian becomes incapable of caring for the disabled adult.

Appointing Guardianship

A person applying to become a guardian must attend a hearing to prove that guardianship is necessary. Illinois designed its guardianship system to protect the rights of adults with disabilities. Because guardianship takes away an adult's ability to make important life decisions, the adult has the right to contest the guardianship. During the application process, the court often appoints a guardian ad litem to independently evaluate the adult and advocate for his or her best interests.

At the hearing, proving that someone has a disability is not enough to grant guardianship. The applicant must also show that the disabled adult lacks the ability to make his or her own decisions. Evidence at the hearing may include:

  • A doctor’s report diagnosing the adult’s disability and its effects;
  • Witness testimony on the adult’s decision-making capabilities;
  • An explanation of the adult’s estate and personal responsibilities that show complex decisions are required; and
  • The recommendation of the guardian ad litem.

If guardianship is granted, the court may require the guardian to submit periodical reports on the disabled adult’s status and the financial decisions the guardian has made. The court may expect the guardian to allow the adult to be self-reliant when possible.

Choosing Guardianship

Illinois encourages potential guardians to investigate alternatives to guardianship, such as:

  • Power of attorney;
  • Living trusts; and
  • Protective payees.

Applying for guardianship can be costly and complicated. A Naperville family law attorney at Calabrese Associates, PC can help you decide whether guardianship is your best option. Schedule an appointment by calling 630-393-3111.


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