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Guardianship and Protective Placement


Guardianship is the legal process of appointing a decisionmaker for someone who lacks the ability to make decisions themselves due to disability or illness. In Wisconsin, we have two types of guardianship: guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. A guardian of the person may handle decisions such as where a person lives, what sort of medical care they receive, when/how they can travel, and other important life decisions. A guardian of the estate handles money management decisions.  A person who has comprehensive powers of attorney may be able to avoid guardianship. Also, not everyone who has a disability needs a guardian. 

Many people are encouraged to pursue guardianship without an attorney because it is a “simple” process. However, guardianship can be a very complex process. Guardianship involves removing or limiting some of a person’s constitutional rights. For that reason, the court has very specific deadlines and procedures that must be followed, even in “simple” uncontested cases. Failure to follow those procedures means delays, extra expenses, or even the failure of your guardianship petition. In contested cases, when someone is objecting or fighting, the process becomes even more complicated. In those cases, a full trial is held, which requires arranging witnesses and preparing testimony, and in some cases even a jury trial.

Wessels & Liebau LLC represents clients in all different roles of the guardianship process. We help families petition for guardianship of their adult child with a disability. We help children petition for guardianship over their parent who has developed dementia or suffered a stroke. We defend clients when someone has filed for guardianship of them inappropriately. In the most difficult cases, we have experience litigating guardianships both in circuit court and at the court of appeals when individuals and families are truly in crisis or when abuse has occurred. In cases where guardianship can be avoided, we help identify and pursue a more suitable option.