At some point, there’s going to be a chance that someone you know and love (or even you, yourself) can no longer make critical choices. How you arrived at this situation is irrelevant. What matters now is how you can help that person, or yourself, in a situation like this. Guardianships are a way to protect people by appointing someone as a guardian who is competent and compassionate to make decisions that are in the best interest of the ward. Let’s cover some basic facts on guardianships.
What is a Guardian?
A guardian is a person appointed by a probate court and given the power and responsibility to make certain decisions about the care and custody of another person.
A guardian may be needed when a person (the ward) is unable to manage their personal affairs because of:
- Mental illness
- Physical illness
- Chronic use of alcohol or intoxicants
The guardian has a duty to achieve the best possible state of well-being for their ward. The guardian must also ensure regular visits with the ward and at a minimum, visit the ward every 90 days.
What is a Ward?
A ward is the individual who is in need of a guardianship. The ward is the individual who will have decisions made for them in his or her best interest. The reason is because those in need of a guardianship are usually incapable of making decisions on their own which are in their best interest. Wards may need a guardian, conservator or an Attorney in Fact.
Difference between Guardian, Conservator, and Attorney in Fact
In some states like Michigan, there exists conservatorships and guardianships. In ways, these two roles share similarities in what they do, but carry it out in different ways. The best way to remember the differences between a guardianship and conservatorship is to look at the root of the word. Guardianships focus on the well-being and health of other people. This can include making choices on a ward’s living arrangements and making medical decisions in the ward’s best interest. A conservatorship on the other hand, is responsible for the financial needs of others. While these two roles address different areas, a guardian and conservator can be the same person or two different people working together.
An Attorney in Fact is different from a guardian or conservator because they are not appointed by the court. An Attorney in Fact is nominated by an individual using a Power of Attorney estate planning document. A Power of Attorneys is a resourceful document as it allows a ward to their Attorney in Fact in advance of possible incapacitation.
How to Become a Guardian
In order to become a guardian, you will need to file a petition with the probate court of proper jurisdiction. The proper jurisdiction is the probate court in the county where the ward is a resident. The petition will advise the court who is applying to become guardian, who needs the guardian, who are the interested parties, and other relevant information. Most importantly, you will need to obtain medical evidence demonstrating the need for guardianship. Once filed, someone from the court will schedule a visit with the ward who may need a guardian. Then the court will schedule a hearing and decide on the matter and if the court finds your petition to be valid, the court will issue letters of guardianship.
Guardianship Process After Appointment
After a year, there is an annual review which covers the details of the guardianship and determines if there is a basis and need for the guardianship to be continued.
In order to make sure this process works as smoothly as possible, you will want to have someone on your side who knows the laws of guardianships and has had experience in the guardianship process. The Probate Pro practices guardianship law in Michigan, Illinois and Florida and we are ready to help those in need of setting up a guardianship. Call us today at (833) PROBATE and we’ll get right to work.