In this article, we will explain how to start a case for guardianship of an adult in Illinois and explain medical reports in guardianship cases. We will first look at the initial filing the petitioner will make with the probate court, and then take an in-depth look at the medical report. This will include who is to prepare and sign the report, the main criteria that must be included, and how the court will scrutinize and make its decision based on the report. Finally we will discuss service of summons and what happens after the guardianship case is filed.
The necessary forms to begin the guardianship petitioning process can be obtained from the probate court clerk in most Illinois counties. In almost all cases, the courts prefer that their own forms be used to initiate the process. The primary form that must be filed is a petition for guardianship, which alleges that the potential ward has a disability that requires guardianship and requests that the court order that the petitioner or some other third party be appointed as guardian.
There is a small fee associated with petitioning for guardianship that is generally paid by the petitioner. In some cases, however, the court may approve that the fee be covered by the estate of the person with the disability. In Cook County, for example, the fee to petition for guardianship of the person is $50. The fee to file a petition for guardianship of the estate is $70 for estates worth up to $15,000, and $105 for estates worth more than $15,000.
A medical report serves as the foundation of guardianship petition. The statement by the petitioner regarding the potential ward’s disability, as mentioned above, must be supported by the actual diagnosis and observation of the physician signing the report. The diagnosis listed in the statement and in the report must also comply with what the state considers acceptable criteria for disability: mental deterioration, developmental disability or mental illness, physical incapacity, and an inability to manage personal or financial affairs.
It is important to note that the evidence must strongly support the allegation that the individual is unable to make sound decisions regarding personal manners or finances. Just because someone is considered disabled does not automatically make them in need of a guardian. There must be proof that an individual lacks the decision-making ability to serve their own best interests.
Nurses, physician’s assistants, social workers, or others in a medical-related field may prepare the medical report, but the report must include at least one physician’s name and signature. The physician can either be an M.D. or D.O. and he or she must be licensed to practice in Illinois. Illinois law also requires that a brief statement of the certification, license or credentials of those professionals who prepared or signed the document be included in the medical report.
The medical report must be dated within three months of the petition being filed with the probate court. If the signatures on the report took place outside of the three-month time period, the court will not accept it. At that point, the report must be updated or redone.
Generally, there are four main criteria that must be included in the physician’s medical report for it to be considered by the court. These include:
· The nature and type of disability, and an assessment or explanation of how said disability affects the individual’s ability to make decisions or function independently;
· An analysis of the individual’s mental and physical condition, which includes education condition, adaptive behavior and social skills;
· A professional opinion regarding the need for, type and scope of guardianship;
· A recommendation on the most suitable living arrangement for the individual.
Being that the medical report serves as the foundation for guardianship cases and provides the necessary evidence to determine whether guardianship is necessary, the court must scrutinize each detail of the report to make an appropriate decision.
The report must fully describe the disability of the prospective ward, rather than a mere statement of diagnosis. It must provide the court with adequate reasoning for why an individual may need a guardian due to their alleged disability.
Also, the report must include the functioning level of the person. This can include the person’s ability to live independently and making important decisions, such as health care and financial decisions. The medical report should have a conclusion in which the physician gives his or her opinion on the individual’s decision-making capabilities and observations regarding the individual’s impairment.
If a report fails to meet these requirements, the court may rule the petition for guardianship is inadmissible based on insufficient evidence.
At the time that the petitioner files his or her petition for guardianship, the clerk will set an initial court date. The time and location of the court date will be set forth in a document called a summons, which will be filed along with the guardianship petition. The summons and the guardianship petition must then be personally served upon the prospective ward, the ward’s close family, and other interested parties as set forth in state statute.
To learn more about the next stages of a guardianship case, check out our article: Illinois Adult Guardianship Hearings Explained.