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Frequently Asked Questions About Guardianship

Q: How does the Probate Court define a guardian?

A: In the Probate Court’s eyes, a guardian is someone chosen to look after the personal and financial well-being of another person, known as the ward, when they’re unable to do it themselves. Guardians are often family members or close friends of the family.

Q: When is an individual considered capable of handling their own affairs, and who may require a guardian?

A: Normally, at age 18, a person is deemed able to manage their life and finances. Yet, a guardian might be needed for adults who are not able to care for themselves or manage their resources due to mental, physical conditions, or developmental disabilities, or if their decision-making is seriously affected by substance use or other harmful behavior.

Q: What does initiating guardianship involve in the state of Illinois?

A: To start guardianship proceedings in Illinois, one must have a court acknowledge the need. When a child turns 18, they are legally independent unless a court has been petitioned and agrees a guardian is required. You initiate this by submitting a detailed evaluation by a physician or relevant professionals, which confirms the necessity of a guardian. This evaluation should be recent and thorough.

Q: Is it mandatory to hire a lawyer for filing a guardianship petition?

A: It’s possible to petition without legal assistance, but legal complexities often necessitate a lawyer’s expertise. Lawyers are particularly useful for navigating the legal system and preparing essential documents. In Illinois, an attorney could be provided by the court if the person can’t afford one.

Q: Can you explain the role of a guardian ad litem, and is their involvement a must?

A: A guardian ad litem (GAL) is usually a lawyer appointed by the court to look into the situation and suggest what might be best for the person who may need a guardian. Illinois statutes typically expect a GAL to be involved, but sometimes the court might decide it’s not necessary. The GAL’s role is to examine the circumstances and report back to the court.

Q: What is the procedure for getting ready for a guardianship court case?

A: To prepare, you need to:

  • File a formal request with the Probate Court.
  • Notify the person in question and their immediate family or other interested parties about the court date.
  • Get all legal documents, like the proposed guardianship order, ready.
  • Arrange for the legal documents to be officially delivered and schedule the court appearance, which can vary depending on the local rules.

Q: What happens during the court hearing for guardianship?

A: During the hearing, the need for a guardian is substantiated with evidence, possibly including testimonies. The individual concerned has the right to be there. The court looks at all the information to decide if a guardian is needed. Local rules will dictate if witnesses are necessary and whether the individual must be present.

Q: What rights does a person have when they are the subject of a guardianship hearing?

A: Anyone undergoing a guardianship process has the right to their own lawyer (appointed by the court if they can’t afford one), to have their guardianship case decided by a jury, and to request a separate medical opinion. They can also oppose the guardianship application, recommend someone else for the guardian role, and expect to be treated with respect and dignity at every stage.

Q: Is guardianship applicable during an unforeseen situation or crisis?

A: Yes, a temporary guardian can be appointed by the court in emergency situations where immediate protection is warranted. This is a provisional measure until a hearing on the guardianship petition is held.

Q: Can the legal authority of guardianship be employed alongside orders of protection for added safeguarding?

A: Absolutely. Guardianship can act as a protective measure for an individual’s personal and property interests and can be combined with orders of protection, particularly in accordance with Illinois laws.

Q: What signs indicate that an individual might require the assistance of a guardian?

A: The need for guardianship is assessed not on the basis of mental health issues alone but on the person’s ability to make and communicate responsible decisions concerning their welfare and property.

Q: What are the alternatives to guardianship like living wills and powers of attorney?

A: Alternatives to guardianship include living wills, powers of attorney, and surrogate decision-making. These options allow individuals to make arrangements for their personal and financial decisions to be handled in the event they become unable to manage their own affairs, without involving the court system. These measures can be more private and tailored to the individual’s specific wishes.

Q: Who may act as a guardian?

A: Individuals over 18 without serious criminal records, agencies not providing residential services to the person with disabilities, and banking institutions (for estate guardianship) may serve as guardians.

Q: What kinds of guardianship does Illinois law provide?

A: Illinois law permits various types of guardianship. The court may appoint a limited guardian, authorize a plenary guardianship, for the person or as the guardian of the estate, or appoint a temporary, successor, or testamentary guardian. Each of these options caters to specific needs and situations.

Q: How long does the guardianship process take?

A: Appointing a temporary guardian can be rapid, while full guardianship proceedings range from 14 days to two months, barring any complicating factors or disputes.


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