It can come as a shock to adult children to realize a parent is no longer able to make good decisions or take care of their own affairs. This can become apparent if
• you notice your parent is the victim of a scam or financial elder abuse
• your parent’s home has fallen into disrepair, bills aren’t getting paid or is making poor personal, financial or medical decisions
• your parent is injured, ill or diagnosed with a mental impairment
When someone is no longer able to handle their own personal, financial or medical affairs, it may be necessary to appoint someone to become their legal guardian. Illinois law provides for two types of adult 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.”
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.
An adult guardianship will limit the person’s ability to make independent decisions, such as managing their finances, selling their home, making medical decisions, entering into contracts such as a marriage and other independent decision making.
1. Determine that no other options exist, such as a Power of Attorney over your parent’s designated affairs, to avoid an adult guardianship.
2. Schedule an exam by a medical doctor to verify that the parent has a medical or mental condition, such as dementia, that impairs their judgment.
3. Consult an estate planning attorney to file a petition to have the Illinois courts declare that you, the adult child, are
An Illinois adult guardian is required to file status reports with the court:
• Guardians must file inventories of the ward’s assets and periodic accounting of estate receipts and disbursements.
• All estate expenditures are subject to court review, and the guardian may be held accountable for estate assets improperly managed.
While these steps may sound simple, the state takes precautions to ensure that someone actually needs guardianship, and the process to be appointed a parent’s adult guardian can take months. Even if they are making poor decisions, your parent has legal rights, and if your parent objects to guardianship, the process can take much longer. If the parent objects to you being their adult guardian but the court agrees a guardian needs to be appointed, the court can appoint another family or a professional guardian. In most cases, the court will also appoint a guardian ad litem who is responsible for making recommendations about what actions would be in your parent’s best interests.
If you have concerns about a loved one and want to protect them with an adult guardianship, a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you understand the legal process. They can represent you in court, suggest alternatives to guardianship, or provide other assistance as you seek to protect you and your loved one’s 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.