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Frequently Asked Questions  

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Office of State Guardian Frequently Asked Questions


WHAT IS THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN AND WHY WAS IT CREATED?

The Office of State Guardian (OSG) is one of three divisions of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission (GAC). The GAC is a model civil rights agency that was created in 1979 to protect the rights and promote the welfare of persons with disabilities in Illinois.

The Commission's Office of State Guardian serves as "guardian of last resort" for individuals with disabilities when no other person is available to serve. Most of its wards are indigent or have limited assets. The Office of State Guardian also assists the court, as the court directs, in guardianship proceedings. In addition, the Office of State Guardian counsels and assists families or others willing to become guardians, with the goal of locating non-public guardians and structuring alternatives to guardianship.

The other two divisions of the Commission are the Legal Advocacy Service (LAS) and the Human Rights Authority (HRA). The LAS provides legal advice and representation to eligible persons with disabilities of all ages to enforce their rights under mental health and related laws. The HRA also serves persons with disabilities of all ages by investigating complaints of alleged rights violations by service providers.

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WHEN IS A REFERRAL TO THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN APPROPRIATE?

Guardianship is appropriate only when a person is unable to manage his/her person or property and consequently is in danger of abuse, victimization or substantial danger to health. If these elements can be proven in court, the person may need a guardian to make decisions for him/her. There must be solid evidence that a person is genuinely unable to manage his/her affairs and that court action is required to remove his/her decision making rights and give them to someone else. A good way to determine whether guardianship is appropriate is to investigate whether a doctor has evaluated the person and found him/her to be unable to manage his/her person or property. In this case, when there is no one else to assume the responsibility of guardianship (when there are no family, friends, relatives, or anyone else interested in serving as a guardian), then a referral to the Office of State Guardian is appropriate. Also, when an impartial or neutral guardian is required, or when the assets of the proposed ward are insufficient to pay the commission usually paid to a guardian of property, a referral to the Office of State Guardian is appropriate.

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WHAT STEPS SHOULD BE TAKEN BEFORE CONSIDERING REFERRAL TO THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN?
  1. All other possibilities for solution of the client's problem should be exhausted. This includes referral to other agencies for appropriate services.
  2. Counseling with the client personally to mobilize resources or to help the client accept the services which are available. Often this step is sufficient; a client may accept difficult changes in his/her life if someone takes the time and effort to show that they care.
  3. If the client appears genuinely unable to manage his/her affairs, encourage the family or close friends to accept responsibility for the client and become guardian if necessary.
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HOW IS A REFERRAL MADE TO THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN?

Contact should be made with our intake number at 1-866-274-8023 (If outside the State of Illinois please dial 1-708-338-7500). If services are being requested, a Referral and Client Status form will be mailed out. When the form has been completely filled in and returned, the case will be screened by an intake worker. If a guardianship petition is to be filed requesting the appointment of OSG, an investigation will be initiated, i.e., relatives and interested parties will be contacted and the potential ward will be visited.

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WHAT IS EXPECTED OF A PERSON OR AGENCY AFTER THE: INITIAL REFERRAL?

The referring person is expected to completely fill out the Referral and Client Status form and to obtain a properly written report signed by a physician, certifying that guardianship is necessary. The information thus presented is necessary for an assessment of the case and for appropriate follow-up once OSG is appointed. OSG can provide counseling regarding the preparation of papers for the guardianship proceedings. OSG may petition for the appointment of a guardian only in those cases where specific funding is provided. OSG will accept appointment by the court, however, if guardianship is appropriate and there is no other person or organization willing and able to serve.

When a guardianship petition is filed, OSG must receive at least 14 days notice and copies of all relevant documents. In the event of temporary guardianship appointments, OSG should be notified as early as possible. Delays in notification can result in delays in decision making once OSG is appointed. Lack of adequate notice may also give rise to the need for a continuance of the hearing to permit OSG to investigate the case. Issues must be discussed in advance with OSG staff, before the guardianship case is filed.

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DOES THE REFERRAL OF A CLIENT TO THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN MEAN THAT THE CLIENT NOW BECOMES THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN'S RESPONSIBILITY?

No, the first task of the Office of State Guardian is to determine if guardianship is necessary at all and whether this need can be proven in court. OSG is responsible for the welfare of a person with disabilities only when actually appointed legal guardian by the court.

Until court appointment of OSG, the client may require services which cannot be supplied by this Office; referring persons and agencies remain ethically responsible for the well-being of the person with disabilities.

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ARE THE CRITERIA FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN DIFFERENT FROM THOSE FOR OTHER GUARDIANS?

No, the prospective ward of the Office of State Guardian must meet the same conditions set out in the law for the appointment of any other guardian, and the conditions must be proven in court in exactly the same way.

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CAN THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN BE APPOINTED IF THERE ARE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS?

The Office of State Guardian should be considered only as a last resort. When a person becomes physically or mentally disabled and needs a guardian, the responsibility of guardianship is best dealt with by family. They may be referred to the Office of State Guardian for information on the alternatives which are open to them, but it should clearly be explained that the responsibility for the person remains with them.

In some cases when family members cannot agree on a course of action, the court may appoint the Office of State Guardian as a neutral party.

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CAN THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN BE APPOINTED GUARDIAN TO HANDLE A PERSON'S MONEY OR FINANCIAL AFFAIRS?

Yes, under the law, when a person's assets are $25,000 or less and there is no one else to serve, the OSG can be appointed. If the person's estate is valued at more than $25,000, the County Public Guardian (in counties that have one) may take the case. If the County Guardian decides not to take the case, and there is no one else to serve, the Office of State Guardian will be appointed.

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WHAT DOES THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN DO FOR WARDS AFTER THE APPOINTMENT?

The Office of State Guardian is required to visit its wards four times each year and to otherwise fulfill the duties of a guardian as set forth in the Probate Act.

If OSG is guardian of the person, the worker assigned to the case also does the following:

  1. evaluates the needs of the ward for housing, financial support, professional services, medical care, comfort and education;
  2. takes steps to meet identified needs;
  3. makes decisions about whether the ward should receive services or participate in activities: and
  4. seeks enforcement of the ward's legal rights.
When OSG is guardian of the estate, in addition to the four visits per year and advocating for the ward's legal rights, the worker assigned to the case does the following:
  1. investigates and collects money and assets of the ward;
  2. pays bills out of the ward's estate;
  3. protects and manages the ward's assets;
  4. enters into and completes the ward's contracts: and
  5. defends the ward in legal proceedings.
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DOES THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN ADVOCATE ON BEHALF OF ITS WARDS?

Yes. The Office of State Guardian, like any other guardian, has a legal responsibility to seek the best interests of its wards. This may mean dealing with individuals or institutions, public or private, to defend the rights of a ward or to obtain services which are due. However, in cases where the ward and the Office of State Guardian do not agree on what is in the ward's best interest, the Office of State Guardian takes steps to obtain an advocate independent of GAC to assert the ward's wishes.

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IS THERE A COST FOR SERVICE FROM THE OFFICE OF STATE GUARDIAN?

There is no charge involved in making a referral. If proceedings for the appointment of a guardian are begun in court, the cost of the guardian ad litem may be levied against the assets of the person with disabilities. However, the court may order a petitioner to pay for the guardian ad litem expense when the petitioner is deemed indigent.

Once the person with disabilities has become a ward of the Office of State Guardian, any ward who has assets can be charged a fee for the Office of State Guardian's services. The fees are determined on a sliding scale basis.

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