One of the hardest decisions a child ever has to make is the decision to seek guardianship over a parent. It often feels as though you are taking away your parent’s freedom and independence; yet, failing to do so can lead to serious injury or victimization by predators that prey on the elderly. So how do decide if your parent needs a guardianship? Ultimately, a judge will decide if your parent needs a guardian; however, careful deliberation and consultation with your estate planning attorney should help you decide whether it is time to petition for guardianship. During your deliberations, ask yourself the following questions:
Has your parent been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another age-related dementia disease?
Does your parent suffer from a serious physical or mental condition that substantially limits her ability to care for herself?
Has your parent suffered any injuries or been involved in accidents recently that could have been prevented?
Does your parent seem to forget things more lately than in the past?
Are bills going unpaid?
Have you noticed money disappearing or being unaccounted for lately?
Does your parent live alone?
Have you noticed a change in appearance (failing to bathe or groom as they did in the past)?
Have you noticed a change in mood or behavior lately?
Does your parent’s physical health appear to be deteriorating?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” you may have reason to consider a guardianship. In Illinois, a guardian of the person or of the estate may be appointed. You may also be appointed as both guardian of the estate and of the person. As guardian of the person you will made decisions relating to your parent’s daily life such as where they will live and what hospital they will use. As guardian of the estate you will have control over the financial affairs of your parent. A judge can appoint you as guardian and give you broad powers or may limit your powers, depending on your parent’s needs.
To become your parent’s guardian you must first file a petition in the appropriate court. A lengthy process then follows that involves notifying family members, an investigation by the court, and possibly a hearing. The judge will then decide, based on all the evidence presented, if your parent needs a guardian. If the judge decides a guardian is needed the judge will then determine if you are a suitable guardian and, if so, the extent of your authority.
Because the guardianship process is lengthy and complex it is best to consult with your Illinois estate planning attorney before starting the process.
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