what is guardianship for a disabled adult? Illinois

Illinois Guardianship Information: What is a Guardianship for a Disabled Adult?

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

In this article we answer the question, “what is a guardianship in Illinois?”, including “when should I file for guardianship of a disabled loved one?”, and “how does the guardianship process work in Illinois?”

What is a Guardianship in Illinois?

Guardianship proceedings are court cases in which the court appoints a legal guardian to manage the financial and/or personal affairs of an individual who is disabled and no longer mentally or physically able to make these decisions or understand their ramifications. Guardians are therefore responsible for making responsible decisions about the person’s assets, debts, income and expenses as well as healthcare decisions and non-financial affairs.

The court designates a type of guardian based on the disabled person’s needs:

  • A limited guardian only has the power to make the types of decisions that the court explicitly specifies;
  • A plenary guardian is able to make all decisions about care and/or finances; and
  • A temporary guardian can last for only 60 days and is granted to fill the space between when the initial guardianship request is filed and the final decision is made.

For the most part, any person who is at least 18 years old and has no criminal record can become a guardian.  The judge is the ultimate decision-maker as to who will be appointed guardians.  A family member may petition to be appointed as the guardian, but there is no guarantee that the petitioner will be chosen. The decision about who will become the guardian is made based on who has the best interest of the disabled person in mind and who will make the best decisions for the estate.

A Guardian of the Estate is responsible for having an inventory of all the assets as well as keep accounting of any payments and reimbursements which are made from the estate.  A Guardian of the Person is responsible for healthcare and other non-financial decisions.  A single guardian may serve both of these roles.

When Should I file For Guardianship of a Disabled Loved One?

If your loved one is unable to understand the circumstances surrounding his or her financial, living or health situation or is unable to communicate about any of these situations, filing for guardianship may be appropriate.  

What is the Guardianship Process in Illinois?

The process to file for a Guardianship Estate requires a hearing which will take place within 30 days of the request being filed. The disabled person is served with summons and is able to have an attorney, a jury trial and cross-examine witnesses.

There must be evidence about the disabled person’s health and finances presented at the hearing and there may be testimony presented by a guardian ad litem who represents the disabled person. A physician’s report is also typically required in a guardianship hearing that specifically states the disabled person will have difficulty understanding and making his or her own decisions.

Courts typically favor spouses, children and immediate family and friends of the disabled person; however, if a person does not have any of these people near them, the court may appoint a professionally trained, unbiased guardian for the estate. Once a guardian has been chosen, he or she will have a fiduciary duty to the disabled adult. A guardian of the estate must submit an annual report about the finances and assets to the court each year for approval.

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Illinois guardianship for a disabled adult explained

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