Seeing your parents age and develop limitations which make it seem like they may be incapable of fully caring for themselves can be a difficult stage to reach as a child. Maybe you have children of your own, or perhaps you live far away from your parents, making it difficult to care for them or to determine if legal action should be taken to protect them. For adults who become incapable of living on their own and making well-reasoned decisions, the need for guardianship often becomes a reality. Before taking action and deciding that guardianship is the correct path for your family member, it is important to recognize the signs of a loved one in need of help, and to fully understand what legal guardianship involves.
Assessing Your Loved One’s Needs
Illinois law states that anyone age 18 or older is assumed to be capable of handling their own affairs, recognizing them as legal adults. However, certain circumstances can cause a person to become incapable of making their own decisions. A legal guardian may be appointed if a person is disabled because of mental deterioration, mental illness, physical incapacity, and/or developmental disabilities. The purpose of a guardian is to help the individual make decisions, knowing that a sound mind is behind the decisions being made.
A person having a mental disability does not always mean that a legal guardian is necessary. If the individual is still capable of making decisions and communicating their decisions, they likely do not need a guardian. However, this statement can leave some gray area needing to be interpreted. A person making a decision that their loved ones do not agree with, as opposed to being unable to make a decision, are two very different things. If you are unsure of whether or not your loved one really needs a guardian, the following four questions can help you determine their level of need:
- Does he or she understand that a particular decision needs to be made?;
- Does he or she understand all of the options available in making any decision?;
- Does he or she understand the consequences of each option?; and,
- Is he or she capable of communicating his or her decision to the proper parties once the decision has been made?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” your loved one is likely in need of a legal guardian’s assistance.
What Are the Legal Options Available?
There are two primary legal options available: guardianship of the person, and guardianship of the estate. If your loved one is incapable of making decisions regarding his or her care, he or she may need a guardianship of the person put in place. This option allows the guardian to make decisions about the person’s health, housing, nutrition, comfort, education, and more. Guardianship of the estate, on the other hand, places control of the person’s property and assets into the hands of another person, so this kind of guardian will be in charge of managing their loved one’s property and financial matters. Depending on your loved one’s condition and needs, you can become a guardian of the person, or a guardian of the estate, or both.
Contact an Oak Park Guardianship Lawyer
Making the decision to take over your loved one’s decision-making rights should not be done without careful consideration and the advice of a legal professional. In some cases, family members may make this decision well in advance of its necessity, while in other cases, family members may put off taking on this responsibility. The Law Office of Vincent C. Machroli, P.C. has worked with numerous families who are concerned about the well-being of their loved ones. For over three decades, Mr. Machroli has helped numerous clients determine if legal guardianship is the next best step, and he has worked with them to secure guardianship rights when they have decided to pursue this route. Contact our Hillside, IL guardianship attorney at 708-449-7404 to schedule your free consultation.