A guardian is a person appointed by a probate court and who is given power and responsibility to make certain decisions about the care of another individual. These decisions might include treatment decisions or where the individual should live. If the individual has a reduced life expectancy due to advanced illness, the guardian may have the power to make an informed decision on behalf of the individual regarding receiving, continuing, discontinuing, or refusing medical treatment. A full guardian can make all decisions for the individual. A limited guardian can only make decisions for the individual that the court allows.
In general, when considering potential individuals capable of serving as the guardian for a particular individual, the court frequently chooses a person previously named as Durable Power of Attorney. If no such individual has been identified, the Court often seeks an interested and willing family member to serve in this capacity. In the event that no such family member is available, the court may grant guardianship to an interested, yet unrelated, individual deemed capable of fulfilling the legal duties of a guardian. Should no such person be available either, the court may order that an agency such as Mid-Michigan Guardianship Services or some other professional guardianship service be appointed as guardian.
The Michigan Mental Health Code specifies separate definitions and procedures for establishing guardianship of a person with a developmental disability versus a person with a mental illness. The former group is simply referenced under the law as “persons with a developmental disability,” whereas the latter group (i.e. persons with a mental illness) are classified under the law as “incapacitated individuals.”