The Arc Wisconsin has been working alongside other stakeholders including the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Wisconsin and the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR) to increase education about alternatives to guardianship and to improve supports to guardians overall.

Assembly Bill 786/Senate Bill 734 establishes mandatory initial training requirements for guardians before they are appointed. (As of 3/3/20 this bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate.)

Under the bill, every guardian would have to complete a free training on the following topics:

  1.   the duties and required responsibilities of a guardian under the
    law and limits of a guardian’s decision-making authority;
  2.  alternatives to guardianship, including supported decision-making and powers of attorney;
  3.  rights retained by a ward;
  4.  best practices for a guardian to solicit and understand the wishes and preferences of a ward, involving a ward in decision-making, and
    taking a ward’s wishes and preferences into account in decisions made by the guardian;
  5.  restoration of a ward’s rights and the process for removal of guardianship;
  6.  future planning and identification of a potential standby or
    successor guardian; and
  7.  resources and technical support for guardians.

See The Arc Wisconsin’s testimony about the need for this bill:

In our statewide work we provide training and support to many individuals with I/DD and families and hear regularly about the concerns and obstacles they face in living their daily lives. One such obstacle families face is planning for the future.

As you know, Wisconsin is getting older rapidly. About 2/3 of the more than 50,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Wisconsin live with their families. In many of these families (25%), the main caregivers are over age 60. Research tells us about a quarter of these families have no plan in place for the future. This is a problem. Without a future plan in place, these families can easily go into crisis.

A lot of the elderly parents have been their son or daughter’s guardian for decades. Their future plan consists of expecting a grown sibling to assume the guardianship. This plan does not come without its risks and often does not result in what is best for the individual or is what Mom or Dad wanted. Ultimately the court has control over who is named successor guardian (guardianships cannot be put in a will) and the person appointed often is not prepared for the role.

While elderly parents have a lifetime of experience supporting and guiding the daily routines and choices of their loved one in addition to navigating systems, a sibling typically has to start from scratch learning the complications of social security and other federal and state programs, working with care managers and most importantly, deciding where their brother or sister will now live.

Many family members who become a guardian do not fully understand a guardian’s required role, responsibilities, and administrative duties. Frequently guardians feel overwhelmed, unprepared, isolated, and unsupported.

As Wisconsin families plan for the future and consider successor guardians, this guardianship training will provide a check on whether guardianship remains the right option for a person, and if guardianship remains the right choice, the information will help determine who is the best person to be successor guardian, and will clarify the responsibilities and expectations of guardians under law.