It often happens that a loved one gets injured, or sick. As we get older, many diseases can affect us, and our ability to handle the affairs of our daily lives and those diseases can get progressively worse as people age. You may reach the point where you just do not think that your elderly loved one can handle his or her affairs responsibly given things like cognitive difficulties, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or some other condition.
If this is the case Illinois law allows you to ask the court to appoint a guardian for the individual. A guardian makes decisions on behalf of the elderly person. Because it is effectively stripping away someone’s rights to make decisions for themselves (even for a caring and protective reason), courts will only appoint a guardian where other, less restrictive measures, like a Power of Attorney, or other directives, will not work.
The test to see if a guardian can be appointed is whether the elderly person is able to make rational, reasoned decisions can communicate his or her wishes, and understands the ramifications of health and financial decisions.
There are two main kinds of guardianships in Illinois. The first is plenary. This is complete guardianship, over all affairs of the elderly person, and allows the guardian to make all decisions for the incompetent person. This includes not just finances, but also personal and medical decisions.
In more limited circumstances, the court will appoint a more limited, financial guardian over the incompetent person’s money, assets or property. This is sometimes called a guardian of the estate or a limited guardian. This can have a number of advantages for the incompetent person.
The main advantage is that the financial guardianship is limited—the elderly person still has much control over his or her own life decisions, outside of financial decisions. Some elderly people may actually like not having to deal with banks, creditors, paying bills, or managing money—they may actually like just having someone else deal with those headaches for them.
From a relative’s standpoint, guardianship means that you do not have to worry about your loved one making some mistake or error that leads to the draining of available resources. Your loved one will not be sued for a debt, or foreclosed on, just because they could not manage money or use an online payment system.
You also do not have to worry about other people taking advantage of your loved one—the guardian will protect that from happening.
The guardian is required to report his or her actions to the court periodically, so the guardian does not have free reign over your loved one, and you still have a chance to challenge decisions that the guardian may be making if you choose to do so.
The Lincolnshire estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd can help you if you have a loved one that is in need of a guardian, or other estate planning legal matters.