In this article, we will explain how long it takes courts to appoint a guardian in Illinois, including the general length of the guardianship process for both temporary guardianship and plenary guardianship, what consumes the majority of the time in the process, and some specific instances that can prolong the process.
Court-appointed guardianship gives an individual the authority to act in the best interest and make decisions for another individual who is unable to do so for his or herself. In the context of guardianship for a disabled adult, the right to make these decisions is legally taken away from the disabled adult when the guardian is appointed. Therefore, the process must be thorough and have sufficient evidence that an incapacitated person is in need of a guardian to make important decisions for their well-being.
If temporary or emergency guardianship is needed for the safety and well-being of an individual, the court order appointing a temporary guardian can usually be obtained very quickly. Sometimes, temporary guardianship can be ordered the same day as the petition is filed. In Illinois, a temporary guardianship is valid for no more than 60 days. In some cases, a temporary guardianship is used in the time between the filing of a petition for guardianship and the conclusion of the court proceedings to appoint a permanent guardian.
In routine court-appointed guardianship cases, the most time-consuming part is preparing the documents and gathering the information needed for presentation before the court at the guardianship hearing. This includes gathering medical records and health history, as well as other relevant evidence indicating a person is incapable of making sound decisions regarding their care. All of this information needs to be compiled before an individual files a petition with the court.
Upon filing, a notice of the petition of guardianship must be served upon the potential ward and his or her family members, and other interested parties, per the Illinois Probate Act. A court hearing date will be set when the petitioner files the guardianship petition. The hearing date is included in the notice that is served upon the ward and other interested parties. Typically, a court will reach its decision anywhere from 14 days to two months after the prospective guardian has petitioned. The entire process, including gathering all necessary records and information, generally takes at least a few months’ time.
There are some variables that can cause a guardianship case to be prolonged. A couple common instances are the availability of information required for the preparation of court papers and a judge being available soon after the filing for the hearing. Sometimes, depending on the county in which the incapacitated person lives, a high volume of guardianship cases can delay when a hearing is set.
Complications and disputes among family members of the potential ward account for a large percentage of guardianship cases being prolonged. Arguments over who should be the guardian, or whether an individual needs a guardian, can delay the process considerably, as additional litigation will likely take place.
It is not uncommon for a disputed guardianship case to take a year or more to resolve. During this time, the parties may engage in written discovery and depositions of expert witnesses in order to gather evidence for trial, as well as motion practice, such as motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, and motions to compel answers to discovery requests.