elderly parent lies in bed with daughter acting in guardianship role near Cleveland

Sometimes as a loved one ages or faces a progressing illness, they may be unable to fully care for themselves or make important legal decisions. Guardianship in Ohio for elderly individuals helps families provide the protection and support these unique circumstances call for.

What is guardianship exactly?

Guardianship is the process where a court allows one person (a guardian) to control the personal decisions and/or the money of another person (the ward).  When an aging parent suffers from mental and/or physical decline, they may lose the ability to properly care for themselves and make important decisions.  Guardianship enables a loved one to legally make medical and financial decisions for the ward.  Ultimately, when a person cannot make decisions about where to live or how to handle money, a guardianship will protect them from those who may seek to take advantage of their vulnerable situation.

Signs of the need for guardianship

As our parents age, we may find roles reversing.  The person who used to care for us suddenly needs our help managing their bills, medical care, and day-to-day living situation.  How do we know, though, when our elderly loved one is beyond making decisions for themselves versus just having more “senior” moments than they used to?

Below are 4 common signs that guardianship may be needed.

  1. Person showing signs of self-neglect:.Elderly self-neglect occurs for a variety of reasons.  Whatever the reason, though, it often signals someone needs to step in to ensure they get the care they need.  If they lack proper food, medical devices (e.g., hearing aids, glasses, dentures), or adequate, clean clothing, their situation may point to self-neglect. 
  2. Person not paying bills or having their utilities cut off: If they have the means to pay forget to follow through, someone may need to step in and help.
  3. Person lives in an unsafe environment: Even if they are managing to keep the utilities on, if your loved one is neglecting the care and upkeep of their living quarters, it’s another common guardianship is needed.  Unsafe conditions included inadequate plumbing and/or heating/air conditions, a home in serious disrepair, and unsanitary conditions.
  4. Person refuses to get care they need: If your elderly loved one requires assisted living help but refuses to allow it, or they need to move to a care facility and refuse, a guardianship may be in order.
  5. Someone strange moves in with a person: Skilled predators know how to take advantage of the elderly. If a stranger moves in, their physical safety, as well as their financial assets, may be at risk.  Likewise, it may indicate that their decision-making skills are deteriorating.
  6. Money starts disappearing from a person:  Changes in an elderly loved one’s financial savings and spending that they cannot explain is a red flag. A predator may already be taking advantage of them or they may be showing signs of dementia.  Either way, protecting them is important.

Obtaining Adult Guardianship in Ohio

If you’re considering adult guardianship to protect a loved one in Ohio, the legal process takes time and understanding to maneuver successfully.  You’ll need to consider what type of guardianship you wish to obtain as well: Guardianship of the person, estate, or person and estate.

Before you file for guardianship in the Probate Court in the Ohio county where the proposed ward lives, you’ll need to have the adult loved one deemed incompetent.  In other words, after careful evaluation, a doctor must give their expert opinion that the person cannot make medical and/or legal decisions for themselves.  Then a probate court must review the information and decide that the doctor’s assessment is correct.

Why do I need an Ohio guardianship attorney?

The legal rights of the proposed ward during the Ohio guardianship process include having another independent expert evaluation of their choosing, as well as legal representation in the proceedings.  Also, things can get contentious if other family members object or argue over who should be the guardian.

Thus, even though there are online Ohio guardianship forms and applications, most families turn to an experienced attorney to help guide them through the process.  Hiring an experienced elder law and guardianship attorney also helps the guardian

  • Ease Time and Strain of Legal Proceedings: Probate court requires numerous specific reports to be filed about the status of ward and all of their assets.  An experienced attorney can guide you through that process so that you satisfy the needs of your ward and the court.
  • Expedite and Clarify Covering Ward Expenses: An experienced attorney can help a guardian decide which expenses need to be paid for their ward and guide the guardian through the process of obtaining timely permission from probate court.  Getting proper permission to pay an expense of the ward in advance is a very important act in guardianship.
  • Navigate Complex Medicaid Laws:  A ward who has substantial amounts of money risks losing much without the proper organization of funds. An Ohio attorney experienced in Medicaid and elder laws can guide the guardian through spend-down measures, so the person can get on Medicaid and have his or her nursing home bills paid.
  • Reduce Conflict:  When family members or strangers try to take advantage of a ward, an experienced attorney can help the guardian protect the ward and manage familial conflict.

How is a ward protected from abuse by a guardian?

The potential for elder abuse in Ohio is real and needs to be taken seriously.  A guardianship helps prevent elder abuse through several measures.

  • First, the Probate Court remains the superior guardian in Ohio.  In other words, the court gets to issue orders that the guardian must follow.  The court follow up on these obligations, too, through annual financial report filings and court visitors, as well as through citations, investigations, and sanctions when necessary.+
  • Also, a guardian must post a bond, which is insurance against funds being taken. If the guardian takes funds, then the bond company will reimburse the next guardian.
  • A guardian cannot relocate a ward into a more restrictive environment without a court giving him permission,
  • Finally, a guardian cannot spend money without the court giving him prior permission.

Integrity Law Offers 20 Years of Ohio Elder Guardianship Experience

Facing the need to care for your elder loved one legally is daunting.  An experienced elder law attorney understands more than just Ohio guardianship laws; they also understand the tremendous emotional stress such decisions bring. 

Peter A. Russell, Esq. and the Integrity Law team offer the experience you need with the compassion you want when seeking adult guardianship in Ohio. Call our office for a free, confidential consultation today.

This article is not legal advice, nor does it suggest a lawyer-client arrangement of any kind. Rather, it is for informational purposes only. Individuals needing legal consult are urged to seek out an experienced attorney and schedule a consultation, so their unique needs and situation can be fully addressed.