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The first step is for an interested party to file an application with the probate court in the county where the prospective ward resides. An “interested party” is someone who is concerned for the alleged incompetent individual and who may be interested in serving as guardian. An interested party can even be the court and does not have to be a family member of the alleged incompetent individual.
A statement of expert evaluation from a physician or licensed clinical psychologist concerning the incompetency of the prospective ward must also be submitted with the application. The evaluation requests information on the potential ward’s impairment or impairments, mental illness and prognosis.
After filing the application, the prospective ward and his or her family members are notified and the matter is set for hearing.
Prior to the hearing, a court investigator interviews the prospective ward and people who know him or her; the investigator also provides information to the prospective ward on his or her rights as well as an explanation on the guardianship process. It is the duty of the investigator to compile a report based on the interviews and to make a recommendation to the court as to whether a guardianship is necessary and, if so, what type.
A hearing then takes place in which individuals, including the prospective ward, can object to the guardianship. The prospective ward has the right to counsel, can present and cross examine witnesses, and can request that an independent evaluation be conducted.
If no one objects to the guardianship, or if the judge determines, based upon the evidence presented at the hearing, that a guardianship is necessary, a guardian will be appointed for the ward.