Ohio's Legal Guardianship System

Guardianship is a court-ordered relationship where the guardian acts for the ward-a person who cannot take care of one's self or property. There are a variety of reasons one may need a guardian, including for one's basic needs, finances, or medical issues. Guardians can be appointed to take care of adults with developmental disabilities or children without parents or children who have been neglected. Currently, there are around 65,000 people in Ohio who are under the care of a guardian. As the Baby Boom generation ages in the coming years, the number of people under guardianship care is expected to increase significantly.

In Ohio, an adult or corporation may be appointed as a guardian, but the guardian must be a resident of the state. Several different types of guardianship exist in Ohio, including:

  • Guardianship of the Estate
  • Guardianship of the Person
  • Plenary Guardianship, or Guardianship of Person and Estate
  • Emergency Guardianship
  • Interim Guardianship
  • Guardian ad litem
  • Co-Guardianship

To be appointed as a guardian, one petitions the court. The court will conduct an investigation and set a hearing on whether guardianship is necessary. Interested parties may participate in this process and file an objection to the appointment of a guardian.

Once appointed, a guardian is a fiduciary to the ward, meaning the guardian must act on behalf of the ward and take responsibility for protecting the ward's interests. Guardians must act in the best interest of the ward when making decisions and these decisions should support the individual's wishes whenever feasible and not be harmful. Every ward is entitled to certain basic rights that the guardian cannot change. Unfortunately, sometimes guardians take advantage of wards. The Ohio legislature recently took steps to curb guardianship abuses.

Ohio's Efforts to Fix Its Guardianship System

Last year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, State Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) and State Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) introduced legislation, House Bill 624, to create a bill of rights for wards under the care of a guardianship. The legislation also would have required that a guardian receive an Ohio Guardianship Guide prepared by the Ohio Attorney General. The bill was geared at addressing recent allegations regarding widespread abuse in the guardianship system.

The bill was intended to codify appropriate legal guidelines for guardians who are entrusted with making personal, financial and medical decisions in their ward's best interests. According to Senator Jones, the bill would have been "an important first step to ensure our most vulnerable Ohioans are treated with respect and dignity." The bill, however, did not go anywhere and died in the lame-duck legislature.

Pelanda hopes to reintroduce modified provisions contained in House Bill 624. The modified provisions, which are expected to be introduced next week, "are designed to encourage best practices and raise awareness of the unique issues presented in caring for our juvenile and our elderly wards." Pelanda believes the modified bill "will provide clear and needed guidelines outlining the rights and protections afforded to persons subject to a guardianship."

Contact a Cleveland Guardianship Attorney

If you have questions regarding guardianship in Ohio, an experienced guardianship attorney can help guide you through the guardianship process in Ohio. Laubacher & Co.'s Cleveland family law attorneys have experience in a variety of family law matters, including guardianship issues, child custody disputes, and divorces. Contact one of our attorneys today for a free initial consultation.

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