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How Do I Know If My Loved One Needs a Legal Guardian?Minors are accustomed to having a legal guardian who makes large decisions for them. While they may have some say in the matter, the final decision is left to the older party. Unfortunately, some individuals must experience this more than once in their life. Older people or those with disabilities often have to allow a legal guardian to take on the “official” responsibility of legal decision-making. Being the party taking on the guardianship responsibility can be emotionally and physically taxing, but recognizing that your loved one needs help could save them from making irreparable legal decisions.

Signs That Your Loved One Needs Help

Guardianships are most commonly issued when someone has a mental disability or when someone’s age affects their clarity of mind. However, just because a person has mental disabilities does not mean that they should have a legal guardian. The purpose of legal guardianship is to make legal decisions for another person when they have the inability to do so. Thus, potential guardians should evaluate their loved one and their ability to engage in the decision-making process. The Illinois Guardianship & Advocacy Commission suggests answering the following four questions to gauge your loved one’s mental capacity for making decisions:

  1. Do they understand that a particular decision needs to be made?
  2. Do they understand the options available in any given decision?
  3. Do they understand the consequences of each available option?
  4. After making the decision, are they able to properly inform appropriate parties?

My Loved One Needs Help, But Can I Be Their Guardian?

There are regulations on who can act as a legal guardian to ensure that the individual’s best interests are upheld. Any individual who is over the age of 18, has a “sound” mind, has not been convicted of a serious crime, and is deemed acceptable by the court is eligible to be a legal guardian. Potential guardians must be able to provide the court with proof of an active and suitable course of action for the individual. In some cases, agencies may be appointed as legal guardians – excluding banking institutions and those providing residential services to the individual. Whether private or public, agencies can often provide more active guardianship than the individual’s loved one since they do not have the same emotional ties to the individual. However, family or friends can make the best guardians in some cases since their desire to make good decisions for the individual has a personal connection behind it. 

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Lombard guardianship attorneyWe generally think about guardianship with regard to guardianship of children, however, this is not the only type of legal guardianship that exists. When a person cannot care for themselves due to a disability, old age, or a debilitating illness, a family member may take on the responsibility of caring for him or her. Sometimes, visiting the person several times a week and helping with certain errands and tasks is enough while other people need much more extensive assistance. For situations in which a person needs significant help, you may consider guardianship. Seeking guardianship of an adult may be the best way to ensure a disabled adult is receiving the care he or she needs, but the process is not always simple.

When Do Courts Grant Guardianship of Adults?

In Illinois, guardianship of a person over age 18 only takes place through the court system. Before a court will assign someone to be another person’s guardian, it must first confirm that the disabled or sick individual needs this level of assistance. The court will evaluate to what degree the disabled person is incapacitated by mental illness, cognitive decline, physical ailment, developmental disability, or another issue. In some situations, a drug or alcohol addiction may also be considered disabling enough to qualify a person for guardianship. The court will determine the level of incapacitation the disabled person experiences and the particular responsibilities that he or she cannot accomplish for himself or herself. Next, the court will determine what type of guardian should be selected.

Guardian of the Estate Versus Guardian of the Person

While there are many types of guardianship in Illinois, they fall into two main categories: guardian of the estate and guardian of the person. When the disabled person only needs help with making financial decisions, the court will likely assign someone to be their guardian of the estate. If the disabled person cannot make healthcare and medical decisions on his or her own, the court may appoint a guardian of the person. In the event that a disabled person needs both types of guardians, one person can fulfill both of these roles or a separate person can be assigned to each role. An individual in need of a guardian may nominate the person(s) he or she wants to act as guardian, but the court must approve this decision.

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The Pros and Cons of Adult GuardianshipWhen most people think of guardianship, they imagine something similar to adoption. They begin to take care of a child in a similar fashion to the way they would care for their biological child. While this is one form of guardianship, adult guardianship is also fairly common. Becoming someone’s legal guardian gives you the legal authority to assist that individual with their affairs. This is typically done to help an adult make decisions when they are incapable of doing so themselves. It can be difficult to take on this role, especially if the adults are your parents. However, when debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s affect the adult’s mental ability, it can be crucial to take on this position. 

Benefits of Guardianship

One of the primary benefits of legal guardianship is the peace of mind for everyone involved. Not only will you feel more secure and comfortable with the adult you are guiding but you will also feel personal reassurance. Guardianships are typically a last resort for family members when they see that their loved one is not able to make legal decisions on their own. That being said, once the unpredictability is removed from the situation it can take away the stress for everyone involved. Becoming a legal guardian also gives clear legal authority for instances in which it is necessary. When third-parties become involved, it is much easier to have a designated leader rather than someone who is unsure and incapable of making large decisions.

Disadvantages of Guardianship

Much like any other legal process, officially declaring guardianship over another adult involves a lot of time and effort from all parties. An attorney must be included in the process along with the signing of legal papers and court involvement. Although this can seem daunting to some, an experienced attorney can lift the stress of the situation off of everyone’s shoulders. The process as a whole can be very time consuming, yet worth the wait. If you are concerned that your loved one needs someone to help them with legal processes, it is well worth the time it takes to obtain your new title as legal guardian.

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Illinois State Bar Association DuPage County Bar Association Northwest Suburban Bar Association American Inns of Court DuPage Association of Woman Lawyers National Association of Woman Business Owners Illinois Association Criminal Defense Lawyers DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
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