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How can you obtain legal guardianship of an adult with disabilities in Michigan?

Understanding Legal Guardianship for Adults with Disabilities in Michigan

Legal guardianship is a crucial tool for supporting adults with disabilities who may not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves. In Michigan, obtaining legal guardianship involves a detailed legal process designed to protect the rights of the individual while providing them with the assistance they need.

The Process of Obtaining Guardianship

The process begins by filing a petition for guardianship with the probate court in the county where the adult with disabilities resides. The petitioner must provide clear evidence that the individual is unable to manage their own affairs due to mental or physical disabilities. This usually requires a comprehensive evaluation from a medical professional or psychologist.

Once the petition is filed, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of the alleged incapacitated individual. The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances and reports back to the court with recommendations.

A hearing is then held, during which testimony from relevant parties, including medical experts, may be heard. If guardianship is deemed necessary, the court will issue an order appointing a guardian. The appointed guardian must then act in the best interests of the individual, making decisions regarding their care, treatment, and living arrangements.

Types of Guardianship in Michigan

Michigan law recognizes two types of guardianship: full and limited. Full guardianship grants the guardian decision-making authority over all aspects of the individual's life. Limited guardianship restricts decision-making authority to certain areas, allowing the individual to maintain independence in other aspects of their life.

Historical References and Examples

In 1898, Michigan established its first laws regarding guardianship in 'The Probate Code of 1897'. These laws have evolved over time to better protect individuals with disabilities and provide clear guidelines for establishing guardianship.

For example, in In re Conservatorship of Shirley Bittner, a 2000 Michigan case, it was determined that guardianship should be granted only when less restrictive alternatives have been considered and found unsuitable. This case emphasizes Michigan's commitment to protecting the autonomy of individuals with disabilities as much as possible.


Obtaining legal guardianship in Michigan requires careful consideration of an adult's ability to manage their affairs and can be a complex legal endeavor. It is designed to balance protection with respect for the individual's rights and dignity. Those seeking guardianship should consult with an experienced attorney to navigate this delicate process.