If you are an adult, the only way someone may become your legal guardian in Illinois is by going to court. An adult may ask the judge to appoint a legal guardian for you if you have a legal disability. The person or agency that asks the judge to appoint a guardian is called a "petitioner." That person must file certain documents with the court to begin a case to become your guardian.
Who can ask for guardianship over me?
Generally, a guardian may be anyone who:
- Is 18 years or older,
- Is a resident of the United States,
- Has not been convicted of a serious crime,
- Does not have a legal disability, and
- Who is of sound mind, meaning logical or stable.
A judge must find that that the guardian is suitable.
A family member is not automatically appointed as guardian for a relative. If you are over the age of 18, your parents are no longer your guardians unless a court has appointed one or both of them as your guardian.
How will I know if someone has requested legal guardianship over me?
The law requires a hearing in court to decide whether a guardian should be appointed for you. The law also requires that you receive notice in writing at least 14 days before the hearing. If you receive a notice that someone is seeking a guardian for you, contact a lawyer right away so that you can understand your options.
How can I fight the request for a guardian?
If you want to fight the request for a guardian, it is important that you go to the hearing. You should prepare for it, preferably with the help of a lawyer. If you want to attend the hearing, but have difficulty with transportation or mobility, you should contact the court using the information provided in the notice.
You have the right to present evidence at the hearing that will help decide whether you need a guardian for all or some of your decisions. You should contact people who know you and your abilities and ask them to come to the hearing to testify on your behalf.
What are my rights at the hearing?
You have the right to:
- Be present at the hearing,
- Be represented by a lawyer at the hearing,
- Tell the judge that you do not want a guardian,
- Present evidence and ask witnesses questions,
- Ask the judge to appoint an independent expert to examine you and give an opinion on as to whether you need a guardian,
- Ask for a jury to decide your case instead of a judge,
- Ask that the hearing be conducted closed to the public, and
- Tell the judge who you would like to have as your guardian if the judge decides that you need a guardian.
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem is a legal name for a person, either a lawyer or other trained professional, whose job it is to advise the court as to whether there is a need for the requested guardianship. A judge may appoint a Guardian ad Litem in your case to help decide whether you need a guardian. The Guardian ad Litem is not your guardian or your lawyer.
The Guardian ad Litem’s duty is to find out and tell the court what he or she believes to be in your best interests. If the judge appoints a Guardian ad Litem in your case, that person must meet with you and tell you about the pending court proceedings. The Guardian ad Litem must also try to find out what you think about:
- The proposed guardianship,
- The proposed guardian, and
- Any changes in where you would live or changes in your care if the guardianship were approved.
The Guardian ad Litem will file a written report with the judge. They will also be present and testify at your hearing about whether the guardianship is necessary.
If the court appoints a guardian, does the guardian have to do what I ask?
The guardian must honor your wishes as much as possible. They must also support your independence. The guardian is supposed to make decisions as you would have if you were competent. The guardian should use your stated wishes as guidance. If your guardian cannot determine what your wishes are, the guardian must make decisions in your best interest.
What other options might be available besides guardianship?
The guardianship can be limited in many ways to suit your needs. Ask the judge if you'd like to limit the guardian's power in any way. For example, you'd like to make certain decisions.
Other tools exist to help people with disabilities manage their affairs that are less intrusive and less drastic than a guardianship. Some of these tools are:
- Power of attorney for property
- Power of attorney for healthcare
- Health care surrogacy
- Mental health advance directives, also called living wills
- Representative payees
- Bill-paying assistance programs
- In-home support
- Advocacy services
Where can I learn more?
Updated: March 2018