If a loved one is no longer able to make decisions for themselves, they made need someone to assist them through a guardianship or conservatorship. By establishing a guardianship or conservatorship, you can assist your loved one in making financial, healthcare, and other life decisions.
If you need help establishing a guardianship or conservatorship for an elderly family member, someone who is incapacitated, or a child with special needs who is reaching adulthood, the Ohio guardianship and conservatorship attorneys at RKPT can help.
Our attorneys can explain the options, assist you and your family in making a decision that best suits your needs, and take the necessary steps to implement your wishes.
A guardian is someone appointed by the probate court to handle financial, healthcare, and/or personal matters on behalf of an incapacitated person, who is called the ward.
Being appointed a guardian is an important responsibility, and it is a position that courts do not grant lightly. Before appointing someone a guardian, the court must first determine that the ward is legally incompetent and cannot manage their affairs alone. Once someone is appointed as a guardian, they have a fiduciary duty to the ward, meaning the guardian has a legal duty to manage the affairs of the ward in a way that is in the best interests of the ward.
Ohio recognizes several different types of guardianship.
- A Guardian of the Person has physical custody of the ward and makes day-to-day decisions on healthcare and non-financial personal matters on behalf of the ward.
- A Guardian of the Estate has the ability to make financial decisions on behalf of the ward.
- A Limited Guardian is only authorized to make decisions in certain areas of the life of the ward.
- A Guardian of the Person and the Estate is authorized to make personal, financial, and healthcare decisions on behalf of the ward.
Applying to Become a Guardian
If you wish to become someone’s guardian, you must complete a Guardianship Application and file it in the probate court of the county where the proposed ward resides. You, as the applicant, must also submit to both a background check and a credit check, and with limited exception, must complete a 6-hour Fundamentals of Guardianship course that is offered by the Ohio Supreme Court. Once appointed, a guardian must complete three hours of continuing education every year.
As part of the application process, the applicant must also submit a Statement of Expert Evaluation, completed by a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist who has examined the ward and believes that a guardianship is necessary. The probate court will also have an independent court investigator evaluate the ward and separately submit their report to the probate court.
To complete the guardianship process, the court will hold a hearing to determine that the ward is incompetent. The ward’s next of kin must be notified and can either consent to the guardianship, attend the hearing, or waive the right to attend the hearing. If the court does not receive a response from next of kin, the judge will assume there are no objections to the guardianship. Once all interested parties have been notified, the court will hold the guardianship hearing.
To have a guardianship granted, the applicant must show that the proposed ward is unable to care for their own basic needs, property, or others under their care; has a mental impairment or illness or a developmental disability; or is a chronic substance abuser.
During the guardianship hearing, the court will review the application, as well as the medical and investigative reports. The court will also hear testimony from the proposed ward and any next of kin or interested parties. After the hearing, the court will issue an order either granting or denying the guardianship. If the ward or the applicant disagrees with the order, the decision can be appealed.
A conservatorship is similar to a guardianship in that the conservator has the power to make decisions on behalf of the ward and must act in the ward’s best interest. The difference is that a conservator is appointed by the probate court at the request of a mentally competent adult who is unable to manage certain aspects of their life. While a Guardianship proceeding is an involuntary process, a conservatorship proceeding is a voluntary one.
Considering Less Restrictive Options
Because a guardianship or a conservatorship will significantly limit the ward’s freedom, courts may consider less restrictive options, such permitting use of a Power of Attorney or a living trust to manage a ward’s assets.
Contact RKPT for Help with Ohio Guardianship and Conservatorship
If you are considering guardianship or conservatorship for a loved one, the attorneys at RKPT can help. Establishing a guardianship or a conservatorship is a complicated process that should not be attempted without the assistance of an attorney.
At RKPT, our lawyers have a wealth of experience assisting families who have members with special needs. With offices in Cincinnati and Blue Ash, we invite you to contact RKPT for more information.