Guardianship Attorneys in Berrien County, MI

Someone in Michigan might need a guardianship attorney if they are responsible for an individual who cannot make decisions for themselves due to age, disability, or incapacity. This includes minor children without parents able to care for them or whose parents passed without a will, adults with severe disabilities, or elderly individuals who can no longer manage their own affairs.

A guardianship attorney can help navigate the legal process of establishing guardianship in conjunction with moving the estate through probate, ensuring the individual’s rights are protected and their needs are adequately met. Serving Southwest Michigan, Legacy Counsel offers a comprehensive suite of services for applying for and establishing Michigan guardianships, handling all aspects from initial designation to taking over as guardian.

Call 269-932-4017 for a Consultation.

Expectations for Guardianships in Michigan

Guardians are appointed to care for people in all stages of life, from minors to the elderly. Their main concern is caring for someone who cannot make decisions alone. Anyone who is considered competent can serve as a guardian if they’re approved by the court.

An appointed guardian has the responsibility to:

  • Make Day-to-Day Decisions. The guardian will be responsible for making decisions for their ward, like where they should live or if they should attend classes.
  • Listen to Their Ward’s Needs. If the ward can communicate their wishes, the guardian must follow their directions and act on them.
  • Pursue Their Ward’s Recovery. A guardian is tasked with helping their ward pursue recovery to regain their independence as much as possible.
  • Make Medical Decisions. Guardians will arrange for their wards’ treatment and professional care.
  • Protect Their Ward’s Property. The guardian will take reasonable care of their ward’s personal effects, like clothes, furniture, or vehicles. If other financial decisions must be made, the court will appoint a conservator.

Our Attorneys Help with Your Guardianship Needs

  • Assess Your Ward’s Needs
  • Evaluate Guardian Nominations
  • Provide Advice on Care
  • Address Conflicts in Probate Court
  • Work with Special Conservators as Necessary
  • Work in Your Ward’s Best Interest

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Why Work with Legacy Counsel?

Our services extend beyond being lawyers helping guardians attend to their wards and navigating probate. We nurture client relationships and remain accessible. From the moment you sign your documents, we commit to being with you and your loved ones every step of the way.

Legacy Clients Benefit From

  • A Tailored Approach to their Guardianship Role
  • Clear & Upfront Pricing
  • Regular & Detailed Timelines
  • Open & Honest Communication
  • E-Signature Capability, Virtual Consults & Expedited Services.

Contact Legacy Counsel today to book a consultation. We will answer your questions and address your concerns.

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Michigan Guardianships

Guardians or conservators can be appointed to care for a ward after someone files a petition with the probate court. In some cases, parents name guardians in their wills as part of their estate plans. However, a guardianship could also be petitioned by someone who feels the intended ward cannot reasonably care for themselves.

For instance, someone who is concerned about another person’s chronic drug abuse could file for guardianship. If the probate court approves, the guardian would help the ward until they reach a point where the ward can make decisions in their best interest.

When Are Guardianships & Conservatorships Necessary?

Someone could be named guardian or conservator of a ward in Michigan. Although both of these roles look out for a ward’s best interests, they perform different functions. A guardian manages their day-to-day personal decisions. A conservator manages their wards’ financial decisions.

A guardian would make decisions about mental health treatment and care for their ward’s property. A conservator would administer changes to assets and funds, like selling a ward’s house or managing a large estate. Not every instance of guardianship will require a conservator.

Types of Michigan Guardianships

There are different levels of guardianship in Michigan, applying to different levels of need. Many cases can be similar, but circumstances vary from family to family.

Guardianships for Legally Incapacitated Individuals

In Michigan, a “legally incapacitated individual” is impaired by reason of mental illness, deficiency, physical illness or disability, or chronic intoxication. These are adults who lack sufficient understanding or capability to make or communicate informed decisions.

Guardianships for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

Someone with developmental disabilities could be assigned a guardian if they meet certain requirements. Someone who experiences mental and/or physical impairments before the age of 22 may be classified as developmentally disabled if the condition is expected to be long-term.

Anyone applying for guardianship on this basis will need to prove that the intended ward’s disabilities affect at least three major life activities, like their mobility, self-care, capacity for independent living, or economic self-sufficiency.

Guardianship for a Minor

There are two levels of guardianship for minors: full or limited. A full guardian is meant to care for a minor ward when both parents have had their parental rights terminated. A limited guardianship is expected to be temporary and typically is approved when the ward’s parents agree to suspend their parental rights.

These guardianships last until the minor turns 18. A minor’s guardian has the same powers and duties over their ward as their parents have. A guardian is not expected to pay for the minor’s needs with their own funds.

Establishing Guardianship in Michigan

If someone believes another person needs a guardian to make life decisions for them, they will make arrangements with the probate court where the ward resides.

The individual will complete a petition for guardianship and submit it to the court. They will serve a notice of the petition and the associated hearing to the intended ward and any other interested parties.

Next, there will be a public hearing for the court to determine if guardianship should be approved. The intended ward can present evidence of their ability to live independently, and the petitioner can give evidence of the need for guardianship.

The intended ward can ask the court for an independent medical exam if they feel one is necessary. The court will decide if appointing a guardian or conservator is in the ward’s best interest. If so, the court will establish the extent of the guardian’s duties.

Once approved, the guardian must file an acceptance of appointment with the court. The court will issue letters of Guardianship or Authority.

When is a Conservatorship Established?

A conservator becomes necessary when someone cannot make decisions about their finances effectively. Establishing a conservatorship may not be necessary if there is someone with legal authority over the ward and their estate. For instance, if someone is exercising their powers of attorney without issues, a conservator might not be appointed.

The Conservatorship Nomination Process

Anyone who believes someone needs help making financial decisions regarding their estate can file a petition to appoint a conservator. If you believe your proposed guardian will need assistance making financial decisions about your estate, you can include that in your will. The intended ward can also file a conservator appointment petition.

FAQs about Guardianships & Conservatorship

How are Guardian’s Selected/Appointed by the Court?

Only a court can officially appoint a guardian. However, a declaration naming the parents’ preferred guardian will be weighed heavily by the court when choosing who to appoint. If the parents did not declare a guardian, then the court will determine an appropriate guardian in accordance with state law. The court will look to family members first, before considering friends. However, the most important thing that the court will take into account is what is in the best interest of the child.

Are Guardians Monitored By the Court?

Once a guardian has been approved, the court will review their guardianship within a year of the guardian’s appointment. The court will continue to check on the guardianship once every three years.

Is a Guardianship Permanent?

A guardianship can be modified or terminated, especially if the court-approved guardian is found to be failing their duties. The court can decide to update the guardian’s powers of authority over their ward as needed.

What if the Individual Doesn’t Want a Guardian?

If the intended ward disputes the need for guardianship, they can fight at the initial hearing or petition to terminate the guardianship after its approval. In either case, they should be prepared to have evidence to support their views.

Are Guardians Required to Pay for the Child’s Care?

Yes. It is the responsibility of the guardian to arrange for the support, care, education, health, and welfare of the child. If the child was left some funds by his or her deceased parents, the guardian can receive funds to help provide for the child’s support from the conservator or trustee. However, if the child does not have any funds, it will be the responsibility of the guardian to pay for the costs of the child’s care.

What if No One is Named Guardian?

If there is no one with legal standing under Michigan laws to take custody of your children in the event that both parents are unable to do so, the child will be placed, at least temporarily, with child protective services. This is a potentially traumatic experience for your child during a time that would already be incredibly difficult. Having a legally-sound document that names a trusted friend or family member as your child’s guardian avoids placing the child with Child Protective Services. It also avoids any potential conflict or court battle over custody of your child among family members and friends.

For assistance creating a plan to protect your children,click here.

Guardianship Attorneys to Protect Your Legacy

Based in St. Joseph, Legacy Counsel PLC is a boutique estate planning and probate law firm serving Southwest Michigan, including Berrien County, Cass County, Van Buren County, and more.

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Call 269-932-4017.