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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe World Health Organization estimates that about 50 million people throughout the world currently suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60-70 percent of all dementia cases. Watching a loved one with dementia suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment can be heartbreaking, especially if that loved one is your spouse. If your husband or wife has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another health issue that affects cognitive function, you may worry about his or her ability to make important decisions. One way you may obtain the ability to make decisions on behalf of your spouse is through legal guardianship.  

Types of Guardianships in Illinois

When a person cannot communicate his or her needs or make rational decisions, a loved one may choose to establish guardianship so that he or she can make decisions on the person’s behalf. The Illinois Probate Act describes several types of guardianship including limited guardianship, plenary guardianship, guardianship of a person, guardianship of the estate, and more. If your spouse has dementia but is still able to make some decisions on his or her own, a limited guardianship may be appropriate. If you become a “limited guardian,” you will be permitted to make any decisions about your spouse’s finances, medical treatment, and personal care that he or she cannot make on his or her own, but the scope of those decisions will generally be limited by the court that grants the guardianship.

If your spouse has significant impairment, a plenary guardianship will allow you to make all of the decisions about his or her finances and care. Guardianship of the estate is used to ensure that a disabled person’s financial affairs are properly managed. If you are unsure as to what guardianship is appropriate for your particular situation, speak with an estate planning attorney to receive personalized guidance.

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Lombard guardianship lawyersIf you wish to be the primary caregiver of a friend or family member who is unable to care for themselves, one option which you have available in Illinois is guardianship. Guardianship can be granted by a judge to help an adult who cannot make general life decisions on his or her own. Guardian responsibilities are categorized into two groups: financial/estate responsibilities and personal responsibilities. In Illinois, there can be separate guardians for a person and their estate or the same person can look after the disabled individual’s personal needs and make estate decisions.

Guardian Qualifications

In order to become a person’s legal guardian, you must be at least 18 years old, not legally disabled, a United States resident, cognitively capable of caring for another, and free from certain prior felony convictions. If the disabled person in question wishes for you to become his or her guardian, such wishes will be considered by the court, but the court is not obligated to approve you as a guardian.

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Lombard family law attorneysNo one wants to think about their own mortality, but it is an issue that must be faced eventually. This is especially true if you have minor children. Provisions must be made for them in case the unthinkable happens. While it may seem alarmist, it is actually quite common to draw up a plan or mechanism to ensure that your children are well cared for if you are suddenly removed from the proverbial picture. The most often used method of guaranteeing that stability is to set up a guardianship, but there are other possible options.

Superior Rights Doctrine

As one might assume, if you are married to your children’s mother or father (or once were), Illinois courts will usually grant custody to him or her under the so-called “superior rights doctrine.” There is a general presumption that a biological parent is the best person to raise children, and this will often be followed as long as the parent has not been found unfit. However, there is one doctrine that carries more weight than the superior rights principle, and that is the best interests of the child. Illinois public policy explicitly states that the best interests of the child are the primary concern when ruling on issues in family law, such as parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities.

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