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.