Guardianship is a drastic remedy, essentially stripping people of some of their basic rights. Fortunately there are compassionate people who make up the powers, the courts and the Illinois legislature, that administer this drastic remedy. Recognizing the importance of guardianships for persons in need while remaining sensitive to the people themselves, the Illinois legislature softened the terminology. Prior to January 1, 1994 Illinois law identified a disabled person as “mentally ill”, or “developmentally disabled”. The law (755 ILCS 5/11a-2) was amended to minimize the stigma attached to being labeled as a disabled person and to provide clarity in the definition of a "disabled person":
“Disabled person” means a person 18 years or older who (a) because of mental deterioration or physical incapacity is not fully able to manage his person or estate, or (b) is a person with mental illness or a person with a developmental disability and who because of his mental illness or developmental disability is not fully able to manage his person or estate, or (c) because of gambling, idleness, debauchery or excessive use of intoxicants or drugs, so spends or wastes his estate as to expose himself or his family to want or suffering.
The definition has been further refined by the courts, who are granted wide discretion to determine whether an individual is disabled. In re Estate of Barr, 141 Ill. App. 3d 428, 491 N.E. 2d 1241 (1986). Physical disabilities are not sufficient to prove incompetency. The law is flexible to accommodate one’s ability to intelligently direct provision for one’s needs through whatever device is reasonably available under the circumstances. In re Estate of McPeak, 53 Ill. App. 3d 133, 368 N.E.2d 957 (1977).