Conservatorships have been in the news! Entertainer Britney Spears is fighting to get out from under a court-ordered conservatorship instituted in 2008 due to her very public mental health issues. Dubbed “the Britney Effect,” lawyers, courts, families and individuals under conservatorship are taking a closer look at how conservatorships are awarded and managed by the legal system. Britney Spears isn’t the only high-profile conservatorship in the news. Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols is making headlines in a conservatorship battle between her son and her manager after being diagnosed with dementia. And high-powered California attorney Tom Girardi was put in a conservatorship after being diagnosed with ‘neurocognitive disorder’ during very public lawsuits charging him with legal fraud. Early in 2021, the Netflix movie I Care A Lot featured a court-appointed legal guardian who defrauds her older clients by manipulating the court system.
The term “conservatorship” is no longer used in Illinois. A conservatorship is a guardianship, a legal term that refers to the legal right to make decisions for someone else. But when is a guardianship appropriate and necessary? And what happens if the individual does not feel they need a guardian?
The Illinois Probate Act provides statutory protections for disabled persons who can no longer manage their own affairs. Prior to 1979, disabled persons termed “incompetent” and then “conservators” were appointed by Probate Court to care for the disabled person’s estate and finances. In 1979, the Illinois Probate Act was amended to provide statutory protection for disabled persons, and new procedures to appoint a guardian and supervise the disabled person and their estate were created.
Illinois law provides two types of guardianships:
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.”
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.
The Illinois Probate Act can create guardianships that meet the different needs and capabilities of a disabled person.
A limited guardianship allows the individual under guardianship to retain some legal rights and freedoms. A limited guardian is granted the power to make only those decisions about personal care and/or personal finances that the court specifies. A limited guardianship is typically used when the person does not require extensive supervision and only makes decisions that cannot be made by the ward. The powers of a limited guardian are specified in the court order, and provide an annual report to the court.
A plenary guardian must be approved by the court system, and typically has the authority to make all decisions about personal care and/or finances for the disabled person.
In anticipation of emergencies, a temporary guardian can be appointed for a short time, typically no longer than 60 days, in order to allow time for the courts to evaluate a guardianship petition. The goal of a temporary guardianship is to ensure that the individual receives immediate protection while the courts put protections in place.
Do you have questions about guardianships in Illinois? An experienced guardianship attorney can explain the system and your rights under the law as a guardian or as an individual who is under a guardianship.
An experienced Lombard guardianship attorney can help you understand the legal process in guardianship cases, represent you in court, suggest alternatives to guardianship, or provide other assistance as you seek to protect you and your family’s legal rights. To talk to a Cook and DuPage County Illinois guardianship attorney, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group in DuPage County, Illinois, today at 630-382-8075.