Adult Guardianship Division FAQ

Does the Cook County Public Guardian charge fees for services provided to a disabled person under guardianship?

Yes, the Public Guardian’s Office files a petition for fees along with an accounting in each disabled person’s case annually in Probate Court.  The Public Guardian’s Office charges fees for legal, social and guardianship services.  The Probate Court judge determines whether the fees are reasonable and appropriate for the services provided and the Public Guardian’s Office is only allowed to take fees approved by Court.  Click here to see additional information regarding the Public Guardian’s fees.

When the Public Guardian becomes guardian for a disabled person, does the government take all of their money?

In cases where the Public Guardian’s Office is appointed Guardian of the Estate, the Public Guardian’s Office is responsible for managing the money and assets in the disabled person’s estate.  The Public Guardian’s Office uses the disabled person’s funds to care for the person or estate.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a-18. The Public Guardian’s Office controls the funds, but the money still belongs to the disabled person.  When the disabled person dies, money remaining in the estate after creditors are satisfied passes either through a will or to heirs at law.

What is the difference between the Office of the Public Guardian and Office of the State Guardian?

The Probate Court may appoint the Public Guardian’s Office for a disabled adult whose estate exceeds $25,000.00.  Among other things, the value of an estate includes the value of real property, bank accounts, investment accounts, cash value of life insurance policies, or the anticipated value of a cause of action, to name a few.  In addition, the Public Guardian is appointed only for residents of Cook County.  The court may appoint the Office of the State Guardian when a disabled person’s estate is less than $25,000.00, or when the person is a resident of a different county.  See 755 ILCS 5/13-5 and 20 ILCS 3955/30.  For more information regarding the Office of the State Guardian, go to their website at

What is the difference between a Power of Attorney and Guardianship?

A Power of Attorney, either for healthcare or property, is controlled by the Illinois Power of Attorney Act.  See 755 ILCS Act 45.  In general, a person with the requisite mental capacity can appoint an agent to act in their stead.  The agency can start immediately, or only come into existence at a later specified date or when the principal becomes disabled.  Powers of Attorney for Healthcare are for medical and placement decisions.  Powers of Attorney for Property are for financial matters.  An agent’s actions under a Power of Attorney are controlled by statute, but in general are not overseen by Probate Court.  A person must have the requisite capacity to execute a Power of Attorney.  If a disabled person cannot execute a Power of Attorney, then a guardian must be appointed.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a-3, 6. A guardian’s actions are controlled by the Probate Act.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a et seq.  Unlike a Power of Attorney, guardianship is closely monitored by Probate Court.  A Guardian of the Person must submit annual reports to the court regarding the health and status of the disabled person.  A Guardian of the Person (except for the Public Guardian) must also seek court permission before moving a disabled person to a new placement.  Among other things, a Guardian of the Estate must file an Inventory listing the assets of an estate within 60 days of appointment, and seek court permission before liquidating, transferring, or disbursing large amounts of money, real or personal property.  In addition, a Guardian of the Estate must file annual accountings documenting all receipts and disbursements.  Finally, a Guardian of the Estate must be bonded for 1.5 times the value of the estate.

Does the Public Guardian’s Office place all disabled adults in nursing homes?

If the Public Guardian is appointed Guardian of the Person, the Public Guardian’s Office evaluates the disabled adult, considers the person’s capabilities and financial status, and then places the person in the least restrictive environment possible.  The Public Guardian’s Office cares for individuals living in their own home or apartment with caregivers, senior apartments, community integrated living arrangements (CILA), group homes, supportive living, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities.

Can a guardianship be revoked or terminated?

A guardianship can be revoked or terminated.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a-20. The disabled person or someone on the person’s behalf may petition the Court to terminate the adjudication of disability.  An adjudication of disability can be terminated or guardianship revoked or modified if it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the person is able “to perform the tasks necessary for the care of his person or the management of his estate.”  If a guardian no longer wishes to serve, passes away or is removed by the Court, the Probate Court shall revoke or terminate the current guardian and appoint a new successor guardian to act.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a-15.

Why does the Public Guardian’s Office serve as the guardian if there are family members?

The Public Guardian’s Office is the guardian of last resort.  In other words, if there are appropriate family members or friends willing to act as a guardian, the Public Guardian’s Office will not be appointed.  If, however, there are no appropriate or willing parties to act as guardian, the Probate Court can appoint the Public Guardian’s Office.  A family member or friend may be inappropriate to act as guardian because they have an inappropriate care or financial plan for the disabled person, abused or financially exploited the disabled person, been convicted of certain crimes, or for other reasons.

Once an individual is adjudicated disabled, what rights does the person have to make their own decisions?

The type of guardianship determines a disabled person’s rights.  Under the Probate Act, the appointment of a limited guardian does not constitute a finding of legal incompetence.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a-14.  In a limited guardianship of the person, the individual retains all rights not specifically conferred on the guardian.  Id.  In a limited guardianship of the estate, the guardian receives all rights and responsibilities not specifically reserved to the individual.  The appointment order spells out the rights and responsibilities of the individual and the guardian.  If a plenary guardian is appointed, the individual has been adjudicated disabled by clear and convincing evidence.  See 755 ILCS 5/11a-3.  A plenary guardian is conferred all authority that is statutorily provided under 755 ILCS 5/11a-17 for personal guardianship and 755 ILCS 5/11a-18 for estate guardianship.

As guardian, does the Public Guardian’s Office make advance medical directives?

Yes, the Public Guardian’s Office can and does make advance medical decisions pursuant to the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act. The Public Guardian serves as a surrogate health care decision maker.  Examples of advance medical directives include do-not-resuscitate orders (DNR), withholding of treatment, withdrawal of treatment or life support, or enrollment in hospice.
Check out the Office of the State Guardian’s website for other frequently asked questions.