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Here’s a fact that should startle — if not outright scare — most Ohio seniors: Only 9 percent of the state’s probate courts require a proposed ward to be present for an initial guardianship hearing.

Yes, that’s right. In the majority of probate courts, a relative who has decided that you’re getting a little dotty in your old age can go to court and prime the judge with all sorts of stories — true or untrue — and you won’t be there to counter them during that initial hearing.

Ohio’s guardianship program is rife with abuses. In 2015, the legislature made some changes to the system — like requiring guardians to actually visit their wards. They also (for the first time) required guardians to pass a background check to make sure that they weren’t completely unsavory individuals out for their own personal gain. In addition, guardians now have to take a class offered through the state’s Supreme Court on how to be an effective guardian.

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t stop well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) relatives from stepping in sometimes where they don’t belong. Just because you’ve gotten a little more physically frail or have had financial trouble doesn’t necessarily mean that you should lose the right to make your own decisions about where you want to live, what medical care you want to receive and who you care to consort with on a regular basis.

An adult ward has zero guaranteed rights under Ohio’s laws. Once you become someone’s ward, you have lost your autonomy entirely. If you find yourself the subject of an unwanted guardianship action, do not delay — contact an attorney right away to protect your own rights and interests. Otherwise, it may soon be too late. For more information on how our office can help you, please explore our site further or contact us directly.