If you know someone who recently lost their parents or caretaker, you may wish to become that person’s legal guardian. Legal guardians are individuals who take over the responsibility of caring for the welfare of someone who can’t care for themselves. For example, if a child loses his or her parents, the child is unlikely to be able to care for himself or herself and must go into foster care if the parents didn’t assign a guardian in their will.
This scenario is common for young parents with young children. Young couples are less likely to think about their deaths than someone of retirement age, so they don’t bother creating a will. In another scenario, an adult who suffers from a condition that prevents him or her from meeting his or her own needs might need a legal guardian to make medical and financial decisions for him or her.
In order to become a guardian of a ward, you will need to seek a court order that will appoint you to the position. To begin the process, go to the circuit court in the county where the ward lives. There will be different petitions available from various counties, but it might be called something similar to “Petition for Appointment of a Guardian and Conservator.”
Complete the petition with identifying information about yourself and the ward, state the nature of the incapacity if the word is an adult, and tell the court about your reasons for seeking guardianship. You must also report the value of the ward’s property and list the ward’s closest known relatives so they can be notified of your petition. Sign the petition and make a copy for yourself and one to give to the court.
Filing fees will vary, but you will need to pay the cost when you present the petition to the court clerk. The court will notify the ward’s closest relatives of your petition if the ward has any. If the ward is an adult, the court will provide you with interrogatories (written questions that require answers under oath) to take to the ward’s doctor to establish that the ward is incapacitated.
Deliver a copy of the petition to the local sheriff’s office, who will then personally deliver the petition to the ward or his caretaker. An attorney will be appointed to represent the ward, and he or she will need to attempt to meet with the ward. If the ward is at least fourteen years of age, the lawyer will inform the child of the proceedings.
Take the interrogatories to the ward’s doctor if the ward is an adult. Then return the answers back to the court clerk. The court will schedule a hearing after receiving the answers. If the doctor refuses to respond to the questions, you can petition to subpoena him or her as a witness at the trial. Otherwise, the answers to the interrogatories can be used as evidence in the hearing.
Prepare for the hearing by gathering evidence that the ward is not in the care of his or her parents, or that the parents are unable or unwilling to care for him or her properly (if the ward is a minor). If the ward’s parents are dead, present the court with a copy of their death certificates.
Attend the hearing and present evidence that the ward is a minor not in the care of his or her parents or an incapacitated adult. The court will ask you questions about your background and your ability to serve as a guardian. If the proceedings take too long, more than one hearing may be needed. However, if your petition is approved, the court will issue an order establishing your guardianship.
If you need help with this process, don’t hesitate to call us. Our skilled St. Charles family law attorneys have more than 20 years of experience to offer your case. Let us see what we can do for you.
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