Guardianship - the Basics

All Stats. citations below can be found in Wisconsin Statutes (exit DHS)(Revisor of Statutes Bureau). You can highlight and copy the citation and paste it into the search feature.

The county is responsible for ensuring that guardianship is established as part of their protective services role

  • Services include client evaluation, referral to Probate Court and case management (ss. 55.02(2), Stats.)
  • Be aware of potential "county of responsibility" issues. The criteria for residence is set forth in ss. 51.40, Wis. Stats. That process can be initiated by any interested party to clarify residency / county of responsibility.

Selection of a guardian of the person and/or estate:

  • There is court preference for appointing a relative or an individual rather than corporate guardian since the relative or individual may know the client's preferences better. (ss. 54.15(5) and (7), Wis. Stats.)
  • The court must consider, but is not bound by opinions or wishes of the family, and must appoint a guardian based on "best interests." (ss. 54.15(1), Wis. Stats.)
  • Requirements and responsibilities of volunteer & corporate guardians are defined in ss. 54.15(7) and ss. 54.15(9), Wis. Stats. The Department monitors corporate guardians pursuant to DHS 85, Wis. Admin. Code (exit DHS).

Planning for the future - possible options include:

  • Co - guardianship (ss. 54.10(5), ss. 54.15(5) and ss. 54.46(2)(a), Wis. Stats.)
  • Standby guardianship (ss. 54.01(33) and ss. 54.52, Wis. Stats.)
  • Successor guardianship (ss. 54.54, Wis. Stats.)

A ward retains all of his or her rights that are not assigned to the guardian or otherwise limited by statute.

A guardian may exercise only those powers that they are authorized to exercise by statute or court order. A guardian may be granted only those powers necessary to provide for the personal needs or property management of the ward, in a manner that is appropriate to the ward and that constitutes the least restrictive form of intervention. (ss.54.18(1), Stats.)

Basic Civil Rights, per Chapter 55 Protective Service System Declaration of Policy:

"[Any protective services provided] should, to the maximum degree of feasibility … allow the individual the same rights as other citizens, and at the same time protect the individual from financial exploitation, abuse, neglect and self-neglect. This chapter is designed to establish those services and assure their availability to all individuals when in need of them, and to place the least possible restriction on personal liberty and the exercise of constitutional rights consistent with due process and protection from abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and self-neglect…" (ss.55.001, Stats., emphasis added)

Last Revised: November 17, 2014