The Accounts Department prepares statutorily-required annual accountings, income tax returns, and facilitates payment of real estate taxes for the individuals whom the Public Guardian serves as Guardian of the Estate.
Annual Accountings: Illinois law requires court-appointed guardians to file an annual accounting of the disabled person’s assets. This accounting reports all assets the guardian has knowledge of, including real estate. The accounting details how the guardian used the disabled person’s assets for the person’s support and care. They are presented to the Probate judge for approval and copies are also provided to family members and other interested parties.
Income Tax Returns: Income tax returns are required for each individual, even if the person is adjudged disabled. The disabled person’s estate is responsible for payment of any taxes owed. The Accounts Department ensures a tax return is completed for each individual who is required to file a return. The Accounts Department also seeks abatement of penalties assessed on individuals who, because of their disability, may not have been able to file their returns and pay their taxes in a timely manner.
Real Estate Taxes: For disabled individuals who own real estate, the Accounts Department facilitates the payment of real estate taxes to Cook County, or other municipality if the property is outside of Cook County.
Fees: Under the Probate Act, the Public Guardian’s Office is authorized to collect fees for services provided for the disabled person and his or her estate. See 755 ILCS 5/13-5. The Public Guardian’s Office must petition the Probate Court, and all fees must be approved by the Probate judge. The fee schedule takes into account three primary types of services provided by the Public Guardian’s Office: Guardianship Services (i.e., property management, asset collection, and bookkeeping); Social Services (i.e., case management and home care services); and Legal Services by the attorneys. The Public Guardian’s Office also charges a one-time fee for Intake Services for cases where a referral resulted in guardianship with the Public Guardian’s Office. The Public Guardian’s fees are paid from the disabled individual’s estate when funds are available.
When the Public Guardian is appointed Guardian of a person’s estate, the Assets Department investigates the person’s financial holdings. This investigation includes reviewing Master Tax Records, contacting financial institutions, reviewing records found in the disabled person’s home, and information provided by friends, relatives, caregivers, and facilities when appropriate. Once the Probate Court enters an order authorizing the Public Guardian to collect, the Assets Department works with various financial institutions and agencies to complete necessary documents to collect an account, liquidate an annuity, or surrender an insurance policy or other asset. The Assets Department also investigates any monthly income a person may be entitled to, whether from Social Security or other pension or retirement source..
The Benefits Department obtains health insurance for our wards, whether through private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. The Benefits Department also applies for various government benefits including Social Security and Veterans’ Benefits. This Department also advises other departments about coverage issues and eligibility factors. In situations where a person is denied a certain benefit, the Benefits Department appeals the decision if appropriate.
Financial Services Department
The Financial Services Department is the gatekeeper of all money belonging to the disabled individuals under the Public Guardian’s care. The Financial Services Department pays the bills for services received by the disabled person. Payments may include mortgage, rent, medical bills, companion care, nursing care, veterinarian services, pharmaceutical expenses, to name a few. The Financial Services Department also manages each individual’s utilities, establishing and terminating telephone, electric, gas, water and sewage services and the like. If an individual receives personal allowance, the Financial Services Department ensures that funds are available and checks are timely mailed out or ready for pick up. They also process checks we receive on behalf of the disabled individuals, including social security, pension, dividend, etc. The Financial Services Department also coordinates with the Legal Department to create and fund special needs payback trusts.
Case Management Department
The Case Management Department is comprised of professionals with experience in social work, gerontology, mental health, developmental disabilities, and other relevant areas. They provide valuable insight and direction in caring for the disabled adults under the Public Guardian’s care. Case Management, in consultation with the Legal Department, is responsible for each individual’s placement, medical care including end of life decisions, coordinating daily care issues, and other issues related to an individual’s personal well-being. Case managers visit the disabled adult at least once per month. They meet with each individual to determine their level of independence, desires, and care needs, and then coordinate with caregivers and facilities to ensure that proper services and care are provided. They monitor each person’s care through visits and care plan meetings. Case managers schedule medical appointments, arrange for transportation, shop or otherwise make arrangements for purchase of personal items, clothes, special foods, etc., and accompany them to various appointments or functions when necessary. Where appropriate, case managers keep in contact with and inform interested family or friends of changes in a disabled person’s health or care. They also work closely with the Public Guardian’s Home Care Department to secure appropriate caregivers for individuals who would benefit from having a caregiver or a companion. Overall, case managers maintain close contact with each of our disabled adults and advocate for their needs and well-being.
Home Care Department
The Home Care Department arranges for home care or companion services to approximately one-third of the individuals under the Public Guardian’s care. This includes individuals residing in their homes, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing homes. Depending on the setting, independently contracted home care workers provide a gamut of services ranging from total care with all activities of daily living to companionship and friendly visits or escorts to medical appointments or activities. The Home Care Department collaborates with Case Management and Legal Department to coordinate the appropriate type of service and care. They consider the individual’s level of care, dietary needs, cultural background, language, personality, and other factors to ensure a good fit and enhance the person’s functioning. Direct services are provided by independent contractors or private home care agencies.
The Intake Department receives referrals from various sources such as family members, friends, hospitals, nursing homes, neighbors, police, financial institutions, Department on Aging, judges, and many others. The Intake Department consists of attorneys and investigators who obtain information from the referring party, interview the alleged disabled person, and obtain other necessary information to determine whether the alleged disabled person needs a guardian and whether the Public Guardian’s Office is appropriate to serve as guardian. Persons who would like to make a referral to the Public Guardian’s Office should refer to our Intake Process section for further information.
The attorneys in the Adult Guardianship Division represent the Public Guardian in his capacity as court-appointed guardian for disabled adults. The attorneys serve as liaisons between the Probate Court, outside agencies, and departments within the Public Guardian’s Office. Bringing order to business affairs that have been neglected or mismanaged, recovering assets, suing for past injustices, securing benefits and handling the legal aspects of guardianship are some of the many tasks of the Legal Department. Other tasks include financial planning and money management. In some situations, real estate must be managed or sold. Attorneys participate in all major decisions concerning the disabled adults and coordinate with all departments in a team approach to provide the best possible services for them. In court, attorneys present various motions, reports and accountings, and litigate various issues related to the person or estate. The attorney determines what issues regarding the person or estate must be brought to the court’s attention or require court approval. On any given day, an attorney could be preparing for trial, inspecting a disabled person’s home, reviewing receipts for payment, visiting the disabled adult, or any other task to further the disabled person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Financial Recovery Unit
Because financial exploitation is common in the population we serve, the attorneys in the Financial Recovery Unit focus on recovering monetary assets or real property stolen from our disabled adults. A “citation” is a form of legal action used to recover assets. The Probate Act allows a guardian to file a citation to discover assets or a citation to recover assets. See 755 ILCS 5/16-1. A citation to discover assets is appropriate when the guardian needs information about a disabled person’s assets. The citation to discover requires a person who may have information about a disabled person’s assets to appear in court and provide such information. In cases where a disabled person has been financially exploited, a citation to recover assets is initiated using a variety of legal theories. A citation to recover seeks direct recovery of assets from a person who has stolen from the disabled adult. Some examples of exploitation include: a tenant who took money from his elderly disabled landlord’s bank accounts; a daughter who inappropriately obtained a Power of Attorney for her disabled mother and used her mother’s funds to benefit herself; or a real estate developer who induced the disabled individual to sell a valuable piece of real estate for a fraction of its fair market value. The Public Guardian’s Office often collaborates with law enforcement agencies and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to fight financial exploitation. Approximately one-third of the new intake cases have at least some component of financial exploitation or abuse. The Financial Unit has been extremely successful, having recovered more than $33 million over the past eight years.
The Property Department manages all real and personal property owned by our disabled adults. The Property Department ensures that the person’s real property is secure, and their personal property is inventoried and protected. Real property includes residential houses, apartment buildings, condominiums, businesses, and vacant land. Personal property includes the contents within the residence such as jewelry, art and coin collections, cars, and other assets of monetary value. The Property Department also oversees routine maintenance, landscaping, electrical and plumbing maintenance, and other matters pertaining to the upkeep and preservation of the property.
In order for the Public Guardian’s many internal departments to coordinate with each other and run smoothly, a team of support staff completes the behind-the-scenes work, including clerical, answering and directing calls, filing, docketing, photocopying, and distributing court documents and mail.