Adult Guardianship Services

Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana (MHANI) has served as guardian of incapacitated individuals since 1988, when the organization accepted a contract to provide guardianship services to individuals moving out of the State Developmental Center and into group and waiver homes in the community.

We offer guardianship services for seniors and incapacitated adults who are unable to make sound decisions regarding their medical needs. Our guardians have 25 combined years of experience in the role and practice person-centered care to keep their clients’ best interests in mind. They adhere to the National Guardianship Association’s Standards of Practice as well as upholding a high degree of ethical standards.

Our Guardianship Staff

MHANI is currently accepting referrals

Referral eligibility requirements:
+ 18 years of age or older
+ Living in a 24/7 supervised facility
+ Receiving Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits
+ No other family or friends able to serve as guardian

If you have a client or know someone who you have identified as possibly needing a guardian, please contact our Director of Guardianship at (260) 609-3091 or email jblazier@mhanortheastindiana.org to discuss the referral process prior to filling out the referral form. We will help you decide if the client meets criteria for guardianship or if there are alternatives to guardianship that may be more appropriate.

A face-to-face intake will be conducted prior to contacting the legal team about guardianship. The turnaround time for a court hearing is typically 8-12 weeks if there is not an emergency need for guardianship.

Guardianship Referral Form
Physician’s Report

Frequently Asked Questions

Guardianship is a legal process that gives an individual or entity the power to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual, who cannot make sound decisions by themselves.

An incapacitated individual is an adult (18 years or older) who has been determined by a court of law to not be able to manage their own affairs including food, clothing, shelter, and finances because of a mental condition. Mental conditions range from a mental illness, to developmental and intellectual disabilities, to other disorders that affect an individual’s cognitive functioning.

Severe mental disorders, dementia, or intellectual and developmental disabilities can temporarily or permanently incapacitate an individual. An incapacitated individual has been deemed by the court as unable to manage his or her own affairs, such as making medical decisions, managing finances and other assets, and accepting treatment options.

When an individual becomes legally incapacitated, a guardian may be put in place to manage their affairs for them. This is a legal process managed by the Probate court. Typically, a family member is chosen as guardian, but if there are no available family members, a professional guardian may be assigned.

An individual 18 years of age or older who has no felony or gross misdemeanor record can technically be a guardian. However, it is up to the court granting the guardianship to determine if the individual is the best guardian for the incapacitated person.

A family member or friend of the individual is preferred when selecting a guardian. During the legal process, recommendations for a guardian is made, and the court can confirm or deny the recommendation. However, if a relative or friend is unavailable or unwilling to make the commitment to be guardian, a professional guardian can be put in place. Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana (MHANI) offers professional guardianships of this manner.

Since establishing guardianship of a protected person may remove certain rights (such as the right to vote, marry, and own property), it is best to try and find alternatives to guardianship before filing a petition. Typically, these alternatives can only be put into place if the individual is still capacitated.

1. Appointing a medical power of attorney to make medical decisions if the individual becomes too incapacitated to do it themselves
2. Appointing a financial power of attorney to ease the burden of financial management
3. Adding a trusted person as a signatory to the individual’s bank account, so they can handle all banking transactions on behalf of the individual
4. Appointing a representative payee to receive and manage Social Security income
5. Establishing a special needs trust

6. Supported Decision-Making may be an alternative for individuals who are seeking assistance with decision-making and a self-directed lifestyle.

Guardianship is a legal process. Since a guardianship can remove considerable rights from an individual, the person or entity filing for a guardianship must fully demonstrate that the individual is not capable of making sound decisions on their own. Additionally, alternatives to guardianship should be pursued before filing for a guardianship.

A petition for guardianship typically follows these steps:
1. A preliminary investigation is used to demonstrate a need for guardianship during the hearing.

2. To start the court proceedings, a petition, or official request for a guardian, must be prepared, signed, and filed by the person or entity that believes the individual needs a guardian. It is recommended that you consult with an attorney familiar with guardianship proceedings before filing a petition.

3. After the petition, a hearing date is set and summons to appear is sent to the individual in need of guardianship. This summons also serves as the official notice to the individual that someone has petitioned for their guardianship.

4. On the specified date and time, the hearing is held. At this point evidence is presented about the need for guardianship. Typically an attorney represents the individual at the hearing. After all evidence has been presented, the judge confirms or denies the petition for guardianship.

5. If the petition is confirmed, it is determined if the proposed guardian is eligible and able to serve in that capacity. If the proposed guardian is accepted, the responsibilities and limits of the guardian are defined to ensure that the best interests of the individual are met.The clerk will then file letters of guardianship that will allow the guardian to make decisions on the individual’s behalf. At this time, the guardian makes an oath to serve the ward and accepts the letter of guardianship.

Guardianship is not intended to be a life-long arrangement. In some cases, an individual may remain incapacitated their entire lives, to the point that they need a guardian as long as they are alive. However, in cases of temporary incapacitation, it is expected that the rights of the individual be returned once they regain capacity.

An annual review is completed with every guardianship case to ensure that the guardian is still needed. Sometimes, with proper treatment and handling of affairs, an individual can become competent enough to manage their own affairs once again. At this point the guardian would be removed, and the individual would have all rights returned to them.

Guardianship can also be terminated if it is found that the guardian is neglecting his or her duties or has been conducting themselves inappropriately as a guardian.

Still have questions? Contact us for more information.

Disclaimer

Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana is a non-profit organization that provides information on guardianship, mental health resources, and educational programs. This website is not intended to provide legal advice regarding establishing, maintaining, or terminating guardianships. It is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney who specializes in elder law before pursuing guardianship.