Edwin L. Hettinger
Kalamazoo: 324-2000 Battle Creek: 968-5000
Three Rivers: 273-7800 Sturgis: 659-6161
Coldwater: (517)278-6800 Dowagiac: 782-2500
Fax: 344-3601 Statewide: 800-294-5055
Michigan law presumes that every person over the age of majority is competent. This presumption may only be removed through a judicial proceeding. This process allows a guardian to be a surrogate decision maker for another person through a court appointment. This appointment transfers the power over an individual's rights, liberties, placement, and finances to another person. This other person is known by many names, including conservator, fiduciary, visitor, public trustee, and even "next friend". When a guardianship is approved by the court, the person whos rights are altered becomes the "ward" of the appointed guardian.
Once the need for guardianship is determined, if necessary, the judicial process proceeds through three phases: 1) adjudication of incompetence, 2) appointment of a fiduciary, and 3) administration. If the respondent is found incompetent, then the guardianship process transfers to another person or entity the power over the incompetent person's rights, liberties, residence, and financial matters.
If necessary, limited guardianship may be sought. This allows individual rights of the respondent to be retained. Respondents who do have understanding and are capable of managing some but not all of their lives and some but not all of their finances and property may consent to court-ordered limited guardianship. This may be welcome assistance if it is made clear that the assistance will be only in those narrowly directed areas of life in which they agree that they need help