According to a recent study from Miami University, adult guardianship in Ohio is on the rise, and many family members and friends are tasked with the important job of becoming a guardian for a loved one who needs assistance with self-care or managing financial matters. The study found that 70 percent of the guardians are family members or friends of the person under guardianship (the “ward”).
Making life decisions for someone else is a big job, and it is important to know the basics when faced with this responsibility.
Where to Begin: Adult Guardianship in Ohio
An adult guardianship in Ohio is handled by the probate court, but the way the probate court deals with guardianship cases can varies slightly from county to county. In all counties, however, there are a variety of people who may be responsible for overseeing your guardianship:
- Court magistrate;
- Staff attorney;
- Probate judge;
- Deputy clerk;
- Court administrator; and
- Court investigator
The courts often partner with outside organizations such as Advocacy and Protective Services, Inc. (APSI), adult protective service organizations (see this clickable map to find your local office), and local alcohol and drug addiction and mental health services organizations to meet the needs of the ward.
How to Initiate Adult Guardianship in Ohio
Any interested person may petition for guardianship. An interested party may be, for instance, the adult child of an aging parent who is unable to make competent decisions, the parent of an adult child with a disability that makes competent decision-making not possible, or the parent of a drug-addicted adult child who is likewise unable to make competent decisions. While guardianships are commonly initiated by the person seeking to be appointed another’s guardian, a guardian can also be appointed by a probate court on the motion of the court itself.
A court will appoint a guardian only after determining that the alleged ward is impaired as defined by Ohio law. The test for figuring out whether an adult is in need of a guardian is whether that person is so mentally or physically impaired, regardless of the reason, that he or she is not capable of taking proper care of his or her self or property or others for whom he or she is legally obligated to provide. Someone who cannot do these things is, under Ohio law, incompetent and in need of help. This is where the important job of the guardian comes in.
What Do You Do Once You Are Appointed?
The clerk of the probate court provides a guardianship guide, which is a good starting point understanding the role of a guardian. Those appointed must also attend a mandatory training program, where they learn the fundamentals and expectations of guardians in Ohio.
The supreme court provides information on Ohio guardianship training, but the local probate court can also provide information on local training opportunities. After completing this training, a guardian can refer to the guardianship guide and the Supreme Court of Ohio’s clickable list of required guardianship forms as needed throughout the guardianship. An Ohio guardianship lawyer can also help with understanding the process, evaluating whether the circumstances of a particular case warrant guardianship, and handling the guardianship process from start to finish.
What Kind of Decisions Will You Need to Make?
Guardians may find themselves making decisions in a wide range of area for an incompetent adult:
Living arrangements and dietary decisions;
Financial management decisions, including management of real and personal property;
Crisis decisions; and
Decisions affecting quality of life
A guardianship can be limited in nature to cover only specific spheres of responsibility, or it may cover all areas for a person’s well-being. An adult guardianship can be tailored to meet the precise needs of the ward, and it can be adjusted as necessary during the course of the guardianship.
The term of a guardianship varies depending on the needs of the protected person involved. On a short-term basis, a guardianship can be set up on an emergency basis, intended to prevent injury to the ward’s person or estate, but longer term guardianships are also possible.
In Ohio, a conservatorship is a voluntary trust arrangement in which a competent by physically inform person seeks assistance (conservatee) asks for another person to be appointed as conservator to help the conservatee manage financial matters. The conservatee determines the assets to be included in the arrangement and the term of the conservatorship. If the conservatee is later determined to be incompetent, the conservatorship ends. Anyone wishing to make financial or other decisions for the former conservatee would need to be appointed as guardian.
The Status of Adult Guardianships in Ohio
New guardianship rules in Ohio were adopted in 2015. The new rules are based on the National Guardianship Association's Standards of Practices for Guardianships. The 2015 revisions were meant to bring uniformity, consistency, and clear guidance to matters involving adult guardianship in Ohio. Disability Rights Ohio published a helpful fact sheet of what the changes mean.
The new rules introduced some key changes, including the following:
The requirement of criminal background checks of anyone seeking to become a guardian;
Mandatory education requirements;
Rules requiring the guardian to make regular visits to the ward; and
Focusing guardianship efforts on ward-centered planning, including using the least restrictive setting for the ward
If a guardianship relationship does not quite fit and cannot be tailored appropriately, there are alternatives—you can find many publications on alternatives to adult guardianships alternatives to traditional guardianship relationships.
Frequently, family members clash over the proper person to take on guardianship responsibilities. Ohio joins the majority of other states in adopting the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, which helps court determine the state with priority when would-be guardians initiated guardianship proceedings in different.
Start the Conversation: Learn More About Adult Guardianship in Ohio
The courts are there to help guardians and wards alike, and there are many advocate organizations with a wealth of information about how to go about managing an adult guardianship or finding an alternative. Working with an Ohio guardianship lawyer can help answer your remaining questions for a successful adult guardianship experience. Contact Anna M. Price at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC to learn more and to start the conversation. Anna can be reached at (866) 617-4736 or by completing her online contact form.