In recent times, high-profile cases have increased the discourse surrounding guardianships. While more discussion about this arrangement for minor children and adults with disabilities is a positive step, people still come away with misconceptions.
Families need to understand the truth about guardianships to protect their estates and the heirs their estate plans seek to benefit. A good place to start is by learning three little-known facts about guardianship.
1. All guardianships do not look the same
Guardianships do not work the same for all situations. The term guardianship serves as an umbrella encompassing a spectrum of legal arrangements for an individual’s needs.
In Illinois, there are two primary types: guardianship of the estate and guardianship of the person. Furthermore, responsible parties must choose between a plenary or limited guardianship.
A plenary guardianship grants the guardian full decision-making authority over the estate, the person or both. In contrast, a limited guardianship restricts the guardian’s responsibilities to specific subjects that the court designates. The ward retains decision-making power in areas the court’s order does not explicitly define. These options provide flexibility for addressing specific circumstances.
2. Guardianships are not necessarily permanent
A prevailing misconception suggests that guardianships remain irrevocable and permanent. However, Illinois law provides a mechanism for modification or termination. Specific statutes allow for adjustments due to clear and convincing evidence demonstrating the ward’s capacity for decision-making or the resignation, death or lack of qualification of the current guardian.
3. Not everyone with a disability needs a guardian
One common myth asserts that guardianship is an automatic necessity for individuals with disabilities. However, guardianship is not and should not be an automatic outcome, irrespective of a diagnosis. To appoint a guardian, the court must see proof that a prospective ward’s disability significantly impairs decision-making capacity.
As with most legal matters, each case regarding guardianship is unique. Unraveling the misconceptions about guardianship helps families as they plan estates and look to protect a child or even an adult in need of assistance in managing affairs.