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Ethical and Practice Considerations

A Practitioner's Guide To Adult Guardianship In Illinois

VII. Ethical and Practice Considerations

A. The National Guardianship Association

The National Guardianship Association (NGA) provides for the exchange of ideas, education, and communication between groups and individuals interested in providing or furthering guardianship services or alternative protective services to individuals in need of such services.

In 2000, the NGA prepared a thoughtful and comprehensive Standards of Practice, that includes a list of guardianship standards covering a wide variety of practical issues. The issues covered in these materials are extremely helpful and are available from the NGA's web site at NGA correspondence may be addressed to their offices at 526 Brittany Drive, State College, PA 16803. Their phone number is 877-326-5992.

B. Substituted judgment and best interest standards of decision making

Decisions made by a guardian on behalf of a ward may be made by conforming as closely as possible to what the ward, if competent, would have done or intended under the circumstances, taking into account evidence that includes, but is not limited to, the ward?s personal, philosophical, religious and moral beliefs and ethical values relative to the decision to be made by the guardian.

If the wards wishes are unknown and remain unknown after reasonable efforts to discern them, the decision would then be made on the basis of the wards best interests as determined by the guardian. In determining the ward?s best interests, the guardian would weigh the reason for and nature of the proposed action, the benefit of the action, the possible risks and other consequences of the proposed action, and any available alternatives and their risks, consequences and benefits, and take into account any other information, including the views of family and friends, that the ward would have considered.

C. Personal Accountability for Guardians

Although Illinois law has no mandatory training or certification requirements for guardians, case law has held that guardians owe a fiduciary duty to a wards estate. In addition, case law has discussed the obligations of personal guardians in a number of situations. Finally, other jurisdictions have held guardians responsible for particular actions or failures to act.

The National Guardianship Association provides a training and certification program to guardians and others interested in learning about the ethics of the guardianship profession. The Commission believes that the NGA certification program advances guardianship as a profession, and in so doing, strengthens protections for persons with disabilities. For further information about the National Guardianship Association, please visit the NGA's web site at NGA correspondence may be addressed to their offices at 526 Brittany Drive, State College, PA 16803. Their phone number is 877-326-5992.

A guardian should consult with a skilled attorney to consider issues of personal accountability and liability. Although it is generally the case that a guardian may not be held personally accountable for claims properly brought against the estate of a ward, responsible practice dictates that a guardian seek professional legal or financial advice before undertaking serious decisions on behalf of a ward or a ward?s estate.