New Jersey Guardianship - The Ability to Make a Difference
Are you stuck because your loved one doesn't have a power of attorney and now needs help with decision making? Are you having trouble dealing with banks and financial institutions on behalf of an incapacitated loved one? Are you unable to obtain medical information relating to your loved one? Is your confused loved one unsafe living at home but refusing to move into a long-term care facility? Are you hitting roadblocks while trying to assist a loved one who has dementia, Alzheimer's disease, developmental disability or other cognitive impairment? Is your cognitively disabled child turning eighteen and are you being told you can no longer manage her affairs?
If these questions concern you then your loved one may need a Guardian.
Guardianship is the process by which the court appoints a fiduciary, called a guardian, to represent a mentally incapacitated person, called a Ward. A guardianship is not a voluntary process. A person cannot agree to have a guardian appointed for him or her. It requires a formal application to the court by the proposed guardian, a finding by the court that the alleged incapacitated person lacks the capacity to manage his or her own affairs and a determination that the proposed guardian is an appropriate choice for that responsibility. When a guardian is appointed the court terminates the rights of the ward and the guardian is empowered to make all decisions on the ward's behalf that the court authorizes.
Sometimes the guardianship process is complicated by a loved one who doesn't think they need to have a Guardian appointed or another person who believes they are the most appropriate person to serve as the Guardian. In either of those situations the person contesting the guardianship - whether the potential incapacitated person or someone from the outside who wants to be appointed guardian - will fight the application. When a guardianship is contested the process can be confusing, difficult and time-consuming. What could have been a fairly simple situation can get extremely complicated.
Guardianship or Conservatorship?
In New Jersey the process of having the court appoint an individual to represent a mentally incapacitated person is called guardianship. In some other states the process is called conservatorship. New Jersey has a conservatorship process but it is different than what is being discussed here. If the questions listed above relate to your situation then, at least in New Jersey, a guardianship might be the answer.
A brief summary of the guardianship process
Here is a summary of the steps we take in the guardianship process
- Meet with clients to discuss whether a guardianship is appropriate for their loved one.
- Review and evaluate necessary personal and financial documentation.
- Obtain required medical examinations of the incapacitated individual.
- Prepare and file an application for guardianship with the court.
- Assist client with the steps required by the court while the guardianship application is pending.
- Attend the hearing scheduled by the court.
- After the Guardian is appointed, help client manage statutory responsibilities as the Guardian of their loved one.
The court appoints a guardian when it is in the best interest of a mentally incapacitated individual. Each guardianship situation is different because every family dynamic is unique. Some guardianships cases are straightforward and the guardianship is easily obtained while others can be extremely complicated and require significant effort to arrive at a resolution. Many people don't realize that having a Guardian appointed for their loved one may be the solution to their problems. If your loved one can no longer manage his or her affairs a guardianship may be what is needed to provide your loved one with much needed help throughout the aging process.