» Guardianship

Can a person under a Guardianship vote?

Yes. Michigan is one of eleven states that have no disability related restrictions in its state constitution or laws on the right to vote.  The Guardian does not need to give permission to vote.

Can I pay bills and manage other financial matters as a Guardian?

Yes under certain circumstances.  If you are appointed Full Guardian of an individual who has assets under $5,000, you also have automatic authority over that person's finances to pay bills and other financial matters.  If you are appointed a Limited Guardian of an individual, you will need to ask the Court to include authority over finances on the Order and Letters of Authority.  However, if the person over whom you have Guardianship has a house or other real property, or if he or she has more than $5,000 in assets, you need to file a separate Petition for Conservatorship in order to have authority over the financial assets of the person.

My father is a chronic alcoholic. Can I get Guardianship?

Chronic intoxication is a basis to obtain Guardianship.  The person petitioning for Guardianship must show that the person who is the subject of the Guardianship petition is incapacitated due to the chronic intoxication, an underlying medical or cognitive condition that is made worse by the alcohol abuse, or a mental or physical disability connected to the chronic intoxication.  In addition, the Petitioner must demonstrate the need for the Guardian's appointment.

Can I sign a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form if I am the guardian?

Yes, under the guardianship, you have the authority to execute a DNR on behalf of the ward with the following requirements:

  • The guardian must visit the ward 14 days before the guardian can legally execute a DNR on behalf of the ward, and the guardian must attempt to discuss the DNR order with the ward if meaningful communication with the ward is possible.
  • The guardian must personally consult with the ward’s attending physician regarding the basis for the DNR order.
  • The guardian must provide a copy of the DNR order to the ward’s attending physician and to the administrator of the facility in which the ward resides. If the ward resides in a private home, the DNR must be available in the residence.
  • The DNR is valid for a year, at which time it can be reaffirmed by the guardian but only if the guardian once again visits with the ward and discusses with the ward’s physician.
  • Once the DNR is executed, the guardian can attach a DNR bracelet to the ward’s wrist.

Do I need the court’s permission to move my mother to a different county?

No. Unless there are specific restrictions in the Letters of Guardianship, you can move your mother out of county. You always need to provide notice to the probate court of any address change. Once the ward is relocated to a different county, the probate court will administratively transfer the guardianship to the new county.

The court sent a notice that I am delinquent with my annual report. What is that?

When you are appointed guardian, you are required to file an annual guardian report with the probate court where the guardianship is filed. The court can provide you with the correct form. The report indicates how many times you have visited the ward, the general health and well-being of the ward and the necessity to continue the guardianship.

What happens in a guardianship proceeding?

When a Petition for Guardianship is filed, the probate court will schedule a hearing about 3-4 weeks from the date of filing. Because the court has so many matters, it will appoint an attorney called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to be its "eyes and ears". The GAL will visit the alleged incapacitated person to present a copy of the petition and explain to the individual that he or she has the right to attend the hearing and to object to the petition. The GAL will likely also want to talk to the petitioner and any family members. The GAL will then issue a report to the court and attend the hearing. The hearing will be held on the normal motion day for the probate court. This means that there will likely be up to 20 other matters in front of the court at the same time as your hearing. The court will call the case and the petitioner and the GAL will go to the podium. The alleged incapacitated individual may also attend if he or she chooses to do so. If the individual agrees to the guardianship, the judge may wish to take a little testimony from the petitioner regarding why a guardianship is necessary. Then the Judge will appoint the petitioner or another nominated individual as the guardian and issue Letters of Authority. In Washtenaw County, the guardian must undergo a training for guardians, which is a 1-2 hour training held at the courthouse. If the alleged incapacitated person objects to the guardianship, or is unable to consent because of physical illness or mental incapacity, then the court will not grant guardianship at the initial hearing. Rather, the court will appoint an attorney for the individual and schedule an evidentiary hearing. Often, there is a need for a temporary guardian pending a full evidentiary hearing and the court will often appoint a temporary guardian if there is an emergency or pressing reason to do so. At the evidentiary hearing, which can be held anywhere from 1-4 weeks later, both sides will present evidence in the form of testimony, medical records and other documents. If the court finds at the evidentiary hearing that there is clear and convincing evidence of the need for a guardian, the court will appoint the guardian at that time.

Where do I file a Petition for Guardianship?

In Michigan, you can file a Petition for Guardianship in the probate court in the county where the alleged incapacitated person resides or where they are present. This means that if the person lives in one county but is hospitalized or is in rehabilitation or residential care in another county, the petitioner has a choice of filing a petition in either county.

What is the difference between a full guardian and a limited guardian?

A full guardian is appointed when the incapacitated person requires assistance in all activities of daily living. For example, a person who has suffered a significant stroke or an elderly individual with advanced dementia may need a full guardian. However, where possible, probate courts prefer to appoint a limited guardian. A limited guardian is appointed when the incapacitated person requires assistance in one or more areas but can still make decisions in others. For example, an elderly person with mild to moderate dementia may need a guardian for medical and placement decisions. However, the person may still be able to make decisions regarding day-to-day activities. The probate court can change guardianship from limited to full guardianship as the incapacitated person’s needs change.

My friend needs a guardian. Can only family members be appointed as guardian?

No, any person interested in the welfare of the alleged incapacitated individual can petition to be appointed guardian. However, the individual’s family members have priority and will have to receive notice of the petition. If there is no objection from any family member, you will be appointed, unless there is some compelling reason for the court not to appoint you such as a felony or prior removal as guardian. If one or more family members object to your appointment, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing to determine who should be appointed as the guardian.