Filing for an adult Guardianship can appear daunting at first. However, with some simple guideline, the process can be straightforward. A Guardianship allows a person to make medical and placement decisions for another person who is unable to make those decisions (the ward). Guardianship is most often used when a person has lost his or her ability to make decisions because of age or incapacity. A good example is a parent who can no longer make informed medical decisions because of Alzheimers dementia. However, it may also be used when a person suffers an unexpected medical event such as a stroke or brain injury.
Any interested person can file for Guardianship. For example, a child can file for Guardianship of one or both parents; a spouse can file for the other spouse; a friend or caregiver can also file for Guardianship.
In Michigan, you can either file in the county where the ward resides or is present. This means that you can file in the Probate Court in the county in which the ward has his or her permanent address. However, if the ward is temporarily staying in a different county, you are allowed to file for Guardianship in that county as well. For example, if your parent lives in one county but is hospitalized in a different county, you could file for Guardianship in either county.
A Guardianship is started by filing a petition with the Probate Court. You can obtain this form from the Probate Court office. This form is also available online. Try to include as much information as possible in the Petition to help the Judge understand why a guardian is necessary. You can always attach additional pages of information if necessary. If you can, attach any medical records that show problems the ward is having. You could also attach a doctor's note stating that the ward lacks the capacity to make medical decisions. The proposed Guardian will also need to sign an acceptance of appointment form. The Court will also require a copy of the proposed Guardian's driver's license when you file so that the Court can undertake a criminal background check.
A full Guardianship is appropriate when the ward cannot make any decisions about daily activities. For example, a full Guardianship would be proper for someone who has suffered a severe stroke and cannot bathe or dress himself or herself. A limited Guardianship is appropriate when the ward is unable to make some decisions, such as medical and placement decisions. However, the ward is able to make other decisions on a daily basis such as what to wear and eat. Courts prefer limited Guardianships where possible so consider that when you complete the Petition. Bear in mind, however, that you can always ask for a limited initially and change to full at a later date, if circumstances change.
The filing fee for a Guardianship is $175.00 per Petition plus $12.00 for certified Letters of Guardianship. If you are filing for two people, such as both parents, it will cost $350.00 plus $24.00 for the certified copies. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.
Once a Petition for Guardianship has been filed, the Court will schedule a hearing date. You will have to hand deliver a copy of the Petition to the ward. You will also need to send copies of the Petition to other interested people such as a spouse or children. The Court will often appoint an attorney called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). The GAL's primary job is to visit with the ward to explain the Guardianship Petition and his or her rights. Another of the GAL's jobs is to try to determine whether the ward agrees with the Guardianship or objects to it. You will often be able to talk to the GAL to give him or her information about why you are filing the Petition.. The GAL will then submit a written report to the Court before the hearing.
The initial Guardianship hearing will be on the Court's regular docket day. This means that your Petition will be heard along with perhaps 10-20 other matters. Your matter will take 5-10 minutes in front of the Judge. The Judge will hear from the GAL who will advise whether the ward agrees to the Guardianship or objects. If the ward agrees to the Guardianship, the Judge will appoint a Guardian. If the ward objects, the Judge will schedule an evidentiary hearing to hear evidence on both sides. The Judge may also order a psychological evaluation or other testing. The Judge will also appoint an attorney to represent the ward. After the evidentiary hearing, the Judge will decide if there is enough evidence to appoint a Guardian.
Sometimes, there is an emergency, which means that you can't wait for a hearing to be appointed Guardian. For example, the ward might need surgery or immediate placement in a rehabilitation center or nursing care facility. In those circumstances, the Judge will appoint a temporary Guardian to make decisions until a hearing can be scheduled.