As people get older, their ability to make decisions about their own care is sometimes compromised due to illness, such as Alzheimer’s, an accident or other situations. If you are no longer able to care for yourself and need someone else to manage your medical and personal affairs, the courts can appoint a conservator or guardian, a legal process that gives someone the legal right to make decisions for someone else. What if you do not want to be placed in a guardianship? How can you prevent having the court decide individual does not feel they need a guardian?
Illinois law allows two types of adult guardianships; the term “conservatorship” is no longer used in Illinois:
1. Guardian of the Person
A guardian of the person has responsibility for making decisions regarding personal matters such as health care and housing for the incapacitated person, who is often referred to as the “ward.”
2. Estate Guardian
An estate guardian has the responsibility for caring for the incapacitated person’s property and financial affairs. He or she is responsible for paying bills and managing property and finances. Depending on the circumstances, a ward may need a guardian of his or her person, property, or both.
You can protect your future by making plans now on how you want to manage your finances and personal matters if you become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions about money, medical care and other daily living issues. An estate planning attorney can help you create legal documents including wills, powers of attorney, beneficiary forms and health care proxies to protect yourself and your loved ones.
1. Living Wills
Also called an Advance Directive, a living will is a legal document that describes what is to be done if you are left incapacitated in a terminal condition because of a disease, injury, or simply old age, and can no longer communicate your healthcare wishes. Your living will document your healthcare wishes in the event that you’re not able to express them yourself.
2. Power Of Attorney
A Medical POA is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a signed, witnessed legal document where someone designates an agent to make health care decisions if they are temporarily or permanently unable to make such medical decisions. A durable power of attorney for health care lasts indefinitely and the person granting the POA authority typically retains the power to revoke it.
3. Beneficiary Forms
When you open a bank account or insurance policy you will be asked to name a beneficiary, the person who will inherit that asset when you die. A beneficiary designation takes precedence over the terms of a will or a trust. Because those assets transfer automatically at death, they do not go through the probate process and would not be part of an estate administration case. Any time you have an important life change, you should review and update your beneficiary designations.
4. Health Care Proxy
If you become incapacitated, who do you trust to make your health care decisions? If you don’t appoint a health care proxy, the courts will assign someone to make your medical decisions – and it may not be a person your trust. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a durable power of attorney, a legal device that allows one person to indefinitely make decisions on behalf of another.
• The Britney Effect: Guardianship Protections Under the Illinois Probate Act
• Who Decides If Someone Is Incapacitated In Illinois?
• My Parent Has Alzheimer’s. How Can I Get an Adult Guardianship in Illinois?
If you have questions about adult guardianships and elder law, a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you protect yourself and your loved ones. They can represent you in court, suggest alternatives to guardianship, or provide other assistance as you seek to protect your legal rights. To set up an initial meeting, contact the estate planning and elder law attorneys at Estate and Probate Legal Group today at 630-864-5835.