Any number of things can happen to an individual to render them incapable of caring for him or herself. Even a young person can suffer an injury that leaves them in a coma or incapacitated. The more common situation, however, is an elderly person who develops dementia. Whatever the reason, if a close family member can no longer take care of themselves, and you are willing to take on the responsibility, you will need to petition the court to become their guardian.
Process of Applying for Guardianship in Ohio
Even if you are the only person who wants to be the guardian for the incapacitated person (known as the ward), you still have to go through the court process, which involves the following:
- Submit an application. You must file an official application in the county where the potential ward resides.
- Go through a background and credit check. As part of your application, you will undergo a background check and, possibly, a credit check. You might be required to post a bond, which is an insurance policy that covers the ward’s estate if you mismanage their affairs.
- Attend a mandatory class. You must complete a six-hour course called Fundamentals of Guardianship offered by the Ohio Supreme Court. If you are appointed guardian, you will have to complete a three-hour refresher course every year.
- Get a medical consultation for the ward. The court must confirm that the ward is incapable of caring for him or herself, so you will have to submit a Statement of Expert Evaluation from a medical doctor (physical incapacity) or psychiatrist (mental incapacity). The court will send an investigator to meet with the proposed ward as well.
- Attend a hearing in probate court. The proposed ward’s next of kin will be informed of the hearing so that they have an opportunity to contest it. If they are able, the proposed ward will testify at the hearing along with the court investigator and other interested parties. If the court determines that the person is legally incompetent and that you are qualified to serve as guardian, your request should be approved.
You can—and should—have an attorney representing you throughout this process. It is not easy to be appointed a guardian, and it is even more difficult to serve as a guardian. An experienced guardianship attorney can help you from day one.
Can This Be Avoided?
If your loved one did not have a healthcare power of attorney before becoming incapacitated, then, no, a guardianship proceeding cannot be avoided. Unfortunately, it is a difficult, expensive, invasive, and very public process. If you need help applying for guardianship, give us a call. If this article is a wake-up call for you and you want to find out how you can avoid this process in the future, we are also happy to help.