Understanding Guardianship: A Guide for Families

A guardian is an individual appointed by the Probate Court to protect and act on behalf of a person who is deemed incompetent. The guardian is responsible for making important decisions for the ward, ensuring their well-being, and managing their affairs.

Guardianship supersedes a power of attorney and is a legal process that allows one person, to make decisions on behalf of another person, who is unable to make decisions independently.

Determining the Need for Guardianship:

The Court determines the need for guardianship through a formal hearing. This hearing evaluates whether the proposed ward is mentally impaired and medically incapable of taking care of themselves or their property. The judge or magistrate assesses whether guardianship is necessary, if the guardian is suitable, and if they understand their duties.

Types of Adult Guardianships:

Person and/or Estate: A guardian can be appointed for the person, the estate, or both. A guardian of the person has custody of and protects the ward, while a guardian of the estate manages the ward's assets and property.

Limited: A limited guardian has restricted powers and can only make specific decisions on behalf of the ward. The ward retains all other decision-making powers.

Emergency: In urgent situations where immediate action is necessary to prevent harm to a prospective ward, the Court may appoint an emergency guardian for a temporary period of 72 hours.

Rights of the Ward:

A ward has certain rights during the guardianship process, including:

  • The right to be present at the hearing and object to the guardianship application.
  • The right to have the hearing recorded and have a friend or family member present for support.
  • The right to be represented by an attorney.
  • The right to present evidence of a less restrictive alternative.
  • The right to request an attorney and an independent expert if unable to afford them.

Duties of a Guardian:

As a guardian, you have specific responsibilities towards the ward, including:

  • Acting in the best interest of the ward at all times.
  • Inventorying all of the ward's property.
  • Filing an annual written report on the ward's status and the continued need for guardianship.
  • Guardians of the estate, filing a written account annually on the ward's income and expenses.
  • Prior approval from the Probate Court for expenditures, contracts, or property-related actions.
  • Fulfilling these duties faithfully to ensure the ward's well-being and protection.

How to Become a Guardian:

  • File an Application for Guardianship at the Probate Court using the forms below.
    • Form 17.0  – Application for Appointment of Guardian of an Adult
    • Form GA.6 – Addendum to Application for Appointment of Guardian
    • Form 17.1 – Statement of Expert Evaluation
    • Form 15.0 – Next of Kin of Proposed Ward
    • Form 15.1 – Waiver and Consent
    • Form 15.2 – Fiduciary’s Acceptance Guardian
    • Form GA-M.10 – Non-Public Record Information
    • Form GA-M.12 – Guardian’s Credibility Application
    • Form 66.05 – Affidavit Of Guardian Applicant
  • Complete all required forms listed above, they are available on the Probate Court website at www.summitohioprobate.com/forms-guardianship.  You must accept the duties and responsibilities of being a guardian.
  • A statement of expert evaluation form 17.1, regarding the ward’s mental and physical condition, from a treating physician, psychiatrist, or licensed psychologist must be included with an original signature.
  • You must have a BCI background check. Processing a background check can take anywhere from 3 to 30 days. The fee for BCI Background check is $32.00 and is non-refundable. You must have a valid government-issued photo ID (Driver’s License, State ID, Military ID, Immigration Card). Background checks are available through the Summit County Clerk of Courts, or you may go to the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation to find a BCI location nearest you.
  • You will be required to view a training video and attend a hearing to approve the guardianship. Visit www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/education/ohio-adult-guardianship-education-program/six-hour-offerings  to begin the 6 hour training video.
  • All Guardians of the Estate must be bonded. This involves a credit check by a bonding company. A bond is an insurance policy to protect the ward’s money and property from improper action by a guardian.

Court Actions in preparation for the guardianship:

  • All adult Next of Kin will be notified of the date and time of the hearing.
  • Next of Kin may include a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, or grandparents.
  • An investigation will be conducted by a Court Investigator to explain to the ward their rights and to report back to the Court on the need for the guardianship.

Contact Summit County Probate court for additional assistance at www.summitohioprobate.com or call 330-643-2350