In Illinois, in order to become the legal guardian for an adult, you must be appointed by the court through a guardianship proceeding. A guardian may be appointed for anyone who is unable to make or communicate responsible personal or financial decisions due to mental illness, deterioration or disability; physical incapacity; or "gambling, idleness, debauchery, or excessive use of intoxicants or drugs."
The first step in becoming a guardian is to obtain a report certifying that the individual for whom guardianship is sought suffers from one of these conditions. The report must be filled out and executed by an expert, such as a physician. Form versions of this report can be downloaded from most probate court websites.
Once you have received the expert report, you should review it to ensure that it accurately reflects the situation of the individual for whom guardianship is sought. It is possible to seek a limited guardianship for particular aspects of he individual's life or a plenary guardianship (total guardianship) covering all aspects of the individual's affairs. The person seeking to be named guardian must make sure that the expert has accurately reflected the level of need for guardianship.
Once the guardianship petition and accompanying documents have been filed, a summons must be served upon the person for whom guardianship is sought, informing them of the case. Notice of the proceeding must also be sent to all close relatives and anyone with whom the individual in question is living.
Typically, a Guardian Ad Litem will be appointed by the court. This is a professional (often an attorney) responsible for protecting the best interest of the individual for whom guardianship is sought. The Guardian Ad Litem will meet with the individual from whom guardianship is sought before the guardianship hearing, and will typically also discuss the case with the attorney for the person seeking to be named guardian.
A guardianship hearing will typically be held within 30 days of filing the guardianship petition. Although an expert or lay witness is not always required, it is good practice to have a witness on hand should the judge decide that one is needed. If the guardianship is contested multiple court appearances may be necessary.
With the proper planning, guardianship proceedings can be avoided. If the person in need of assistance signs Healthcare and Financial Powers of Attorney while still mentally competent, these can convey most of the powers that would otherwise be granted by the court in a guardianship case.
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