In this article we explain Illinois limited guardianship and how it is different than other types of guardianship. We will answer the question “what is a limited guardianship?” and explain how to appoint a limited guardian for a disabled adult.
Recall from our article Illinois Guardianship Explained that guardianship is a measure taken when a person is deemed to be unable to make his or her own decisions regarding personal care, health and finances. The most common form of guardianship is plenary, where the guardian is able to make all decisions for a disabled adult. A limited guardian is appointed when a disabled person is able to make some of the disabled adult’s financial or personal decisions but not all. The decisions that a limited guardian is empowered to make must be specifically stated by the court. In this way, limited guardianship agreements are more personalized to the disabled adult’s specific needs because the disabled adult retains as much control over his or her own affairs as is practicable.
Limited guardianship can be applied to a person’s financial decisions (“guardianship of the estate") or personal decisions such as healthcare (“guardianship of the person”). Common types of limited guardianship include medical, financial, education, habilitation and residential decisions. A limited guardian has all the same responsibilities that a guardian has, such as presenting annual reports to the courts. The limited guardian is just more restricted in which decisions he or she can make.
Since plenary guardianship causes the disabled adult to completely lose all decision-making power, it may be seen as extremely invasive into a person’s life. Despite this, limited guardianship is the least used form of guardianship because most physicians do not fully understand the ability a court has to appoint a limited guardian when a person is able to make some of his/her own decisions.
The process of appointing a limited guardian is very similar to that of appointing a plenary guardian. However, when there is a petition for a limited guardianship, the court process becomes more difficult because a physician must present an in-depth analysis of which decisions a person is reasonably able to make on his or her own and then the court must decide which of these rights the disabled adult will retain. Courts normally prefer to appoint a person’s spouse or other close family member as the guardian regardless of whether it is a regular or limited guardian.
Each case of limited guardianship is different and customized to the disabled person. Therefore, guardians must have an in-depth understanding of the decisions they are empowered to make and which decisions the disabled adult retains in order to avoid overstepping the guardian role. Limited guardianship may be considered a slightly smaller responsibility than a normal guardian, but the limited guardian must still be prepared to devote time to the decisions which need to be made as well as to presenting information clearly to the courts.