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Having someone you trust to make decisions for you when you can't is a good idea, if you don't want a stranger doing it, that is.

In Illinois, if you are "not decisional" as the lawyers say, and you haven't chosen someone to act on your behalf when you're in that state, a judge will appoint a guardian for you.

In Champaign County, John Brown of Savoy is the county public guardian for those who have no one else to do the job. In Vermilion County, Matt Myrick of Oakwood holds that position.

"Having a decision-maker that you trust, that you have the opportunity to talk to about how you want medical decisions made before that emergency occurs is really important," said Champaign attorney Deb Feinen, whose office specializes in petitioning for guardianships.

"Assuming that you don't revoke your power-of-attorney, that person is able to make all the decisions and you don't have to go to court and get a guardianship," she said.

Champaign County Judge Holly Clemons, who handles most of the requests for guardianships, said typically the requests come from a family member who has no power to act because the affected loved one hasn't executed a power-of-attorney.

In Champaign County, 36 guardianship cases were opened for adults in 2012, 51 in 2011 and 47 in 2010. Through the third week in July, that number stood at 29 for 2013.

"Sometimes, peoples' lives are at stake or at least a major health decision has to be made," Feinen said.

"The tragic thing that happens is, grandma is at the hospital and the whole family is there worrying about her health matters and they have to go to court in the middle of that health crisis to have a decision-maker appointed. That's really awful," she said.

"And when you are discharged, you have to have a decision-maker to sign you into a rehabilitation facility, make sure you have care at home, make any number of choices" for you, she observed.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).