What is the Guardianship Division - Intellectual Disabilities (GDID)?
When individuals aren’t able to make good decisions for themselves because of their situation or disabilities, they are at risk of being taken advantage of, abused, neglected or not receiving needed medical or other services. This is where guardianship comes in.
Guardianship is a court appointed relationship between a competent adult (guardian) and a person who is not able to handle his or her affairs (ward).
There’s no easy way to determine who needs a guardianship, which is why each person’s situation must be considered in the following way:
- Is the person able to understand his/her situation and communicate decisions in a way that demonstrates an understanding of the consequences?
- Is there an increased risk to health, safety or quality of life because of the decisions that he or she is making?
- Does a condition or situation exist that places him or her in imminent physical, emotional or financial danger?
- Are there other approaches, services or alternatives that will provide the necessary protection and support to the individual that are less restrictive than establishing a guardianship?
- What damaging effects can the establishment of a guardianship have?
- Will a guardianship provide relief and protection?
Advocating and Empowering for Better Lives
Our person-centered approach to decision making and support includes:
- Identifying and meeting the needs of our clients by working closely with the human service centers, residential, and vocational service providers that specialize in serving people with intellectual disabilities, medical services, county social services, and the courts.
- Talking to staff at our clients’ home or work to make sure that their needs are met.
- Involving our clients in the decision making process whenever possible.
- Ensuring that our clients are living as independently as possible while meeting their health and safety needs by preventing abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- Keeping the individual’s best interest in mind when making residential, medical, and financial decisions.
- Visiting our clients regularly so we know their needs and wishes.
There is a legal procedure that must be followed in order to establish a guardianship. Once it has been determined that guardianship is the most appropriate solution, the first step is to contact an attorney. Your attorney will help you file a petition for guardianship and a court hearing will be set. Notices of the petition for guardianship and date of the hearing will be given to all interested parties, including the proposed ward. At the hearing, the court decides if the proposed ward needs a guardian, the level of guardianship (limited or general) and who will be the guardian.
The attorney representing the person seeking the guardianship (the petitioner) will continue to gather information and evidence that supports the need for establishing guardianship. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem, a visitor, and an expert examiner (physician, psychiatrist, advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistant or psychologist) to evaluate the need for and appropriateness of establishing a guardianship for the proposed ward.
- The guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney who represents the proposed ward. The GAL visits with the proposed ward and evaluates all of the available information on the case. The GAL then files a report and recommendations with the court. The guardian ad litem makes recommendations based on what he or she feels is in the best interests of the proposed ward.
- The visitor is usually a social service professional who visits with the proposed ward, his or her current (future, if applicable) residence and the proposed guardian. The visitor may meet with others who are involved in the case and examine information pertinent to the case. The visitor then files a report and recommendations with the court.
- The expert examiner examines or evaluates the proposed ward. His or her recommendations and report are then filed with the court.
All interested parties could and should attend the hearing. The proposed ward must attend unless very good and clear reasons for his or her absence are provided to the court. (The court may hold the hearing at an alternative location such as a nursing home or hospital to ensure the proposed ward’s attendance.)
- The attorney representing the petitioner presents evidence to establish that the proposed ward is unable to make or communicate responsible decisions for his or her well-being in all or certain areas of his or her life.
- The court accepts and carefully considers the reports and recommendations filed by the visitor, guardian ad litem, and expert examiner.
- Anyone involved in the case may testify to prove or disprove the need to establish guardianship.
- Once the evidence has been presented and testimony has been given, the court must decide if there is clear and convincing evidence that the proposed ward is incapacitated and there are no other options available to safeguard the proposed ward’s health, safety and habilitation. If so, the court appoints a guardian who will be able to fulfill the assigned duties properly.
In order to protect the freedoms and rights of a proposed ward, the procedure to establish a guardianship is detailed, specific and requires the services of a number of professionals. The cost of setting up a guardianship includes attorney’s fees, court costs, and fees for the guardian ad litem, visitor and the expert examiner.
- The cost to establish a guardianship can range from $1,000 to $2,000 or more. In most cases, these costs are paid by the person who is petitioning for the court to establish a guardianship or if the court orders, the proposed ward may be required to pay. In some cases, certain fees can be paid by an outside agency or may even be waived.
The court will issue orders and letters that specify the areas where the guardian does and does not have authority and responsibility. After the guardianship orders and letters have been signed and filed with the court, the guardianship becomes official.
You may have the authority to oversee and handle your ward’s funds. You must make sure that your ward’s money is spent to cover his or her needs such as rent, clothing, and other bills. Unless you agree to take on more financial responsibility for your ward or are clearly negligent in handling your ward’s funds, you have no personal financial responsibility.
You need to make arrangements for the care of your ward; you are not required to have your ward move into your home. You are responsible for seeing to the well-being and best interest of your ward.
Guardians are required to file an Annual Wellbeing Report, an Annual Financial Accounting and a Confidential Information Form with the court. The report forms are available from the probate office of the district court as well as the North Dakota Supreme Court website. The reports consist of information about the physical and emotional condition of your ward, the services that the ward receives, any problems that have occurred since the last report, what the guardian has done for the ward, a summary of any medical decisions the guardian has made on behalf of the ward and an accounting of the ward’s financials.
As a guardian your primary responsibility is to ensure that your ward is receiving necessary and quality services. There are agencies and organizations that can provide assistance in obtaining these services. Some of these agencies and organizations are: Protection & Advocacy Project, North Dakota Department of Human Services/Vulnerable Adult Protective Services, Legal Services of North Dakota, your district court, North Dakota Department of Human Services/Developmental Disabilities Division, North Dakota Department of Human Services/Aging Services Division, Mental Health Association of North Dakota, area social services, the Guardianship Association of North Dakota and the Guardianship Division of Catholic Charities North Dakota.
Our Guardianship Workers
Our services have one focus: meeting the guardianship needs of adults with intellectual disabilities. If you have more questions contact us!