If you are an Illinois resident whose spouse, adult child or other loved one seems to have difficulty making decisions about the conduct of his or her own life, (s)he may be a candidate for a guardianship. As the Illinois Guardianship & Advocacy Commission explains, the courts often appoint a guardian, i.e., a substitute decision maker, for someone suffering from a physical, mental or developmental disability or deterioration.
However, if your loved one suffers from one of these conditions, that does not, by itself, mean that (s)he needs or must have a guardian. Nor does making occasional poor or incorrect decisions. Rather, the test for guardianship in Illinois goes to the person's ability to actually make decisions and then communicate those decisions to others. The IGAC recommends answering the following questions as they relate to your loved one:
- Does (s)he understand when (s)he must make a certain decision?
- Does (s)he understand all her options when making his/her decision?
- Does (s)he understand the consequences of each of those options?
- Can (s)he properly inform you and/or other appropriate people once (s)he makes his/her decision?
Normal life responsibilities
Illinois law presumes that adults over the age of 18 can and should make their own decisions and handle their own affairs. Consequently, when determining if a person needs a guardian, courts look at how (s)he handles the following decisions:
- Where to live
- Where to work
- When and how to seek medical care and other professional services
- When and how to buy common items such as food and clothing
- How to properly care for his/her children or other dependents
Keep in mind that only an Illinois circuit court can determine if your loved one needs a guardian and appoint one for him or her. Also keep in mind that if you already have a guardianship over your minor child, that guardianship automatically terminates when (s)he reaches age 18. At that point you will need to go to court to establish a new guardianship for your now adult child. This is educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.