A guardianship is not put in place lightly, but it is sometimes necessary in order to protect the rights, person, and property of an incapacitated individual. In a guardianship, the legal guardian of the ward (the incapacitated person), essentially steps into the ward’s shoes and is empowered with certain duties and powers that are set forth by New Jersey court rules and statutes. The specific duties of a guardian will vary depending on the type of guardianship established and what is required by the court’s order.
What are you Responsible for in a Guardianship?
In a guardianship, the guardian is tasked with making decisions that are in the best interest of the ward. Furthermore, decisions should often be made, to the extent practicable, in line with any legal document previously executed by the ward that has not been revoked or otherwise modified by the court. Such a document may be a power of attorney, living will, or other advance directive. A guardian also has the responsibility to be sensitive to the level of competence retained by the ward. Should an incapacitated person lack capacity to make certain decisions, such as medical decisions, the guardian will likely be tasked with making these decisions on the ward’s behalf. The wishes of the ward, however, should still be taken into consideration and honored to the extent possible.
The broadest powers and responsibilities of a guardian will be granted in a general guardianship. However, despite the broad range of rights and responsibilities bestowed upon a guardian in a general guardianship, it is important to be mindful that the guardian is not legally obligated to financially support the ward from their personal financial funds. The guardian also carries no personal liability to third-party debts carried by the ward.
In a limited guardianship, the court will specify what powers are being bestowed upon the guardian. The court order will detail the limitations on the authority of the guardian and will likely identify what areas the guardian is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the ward. In some limited guardianships and all general guardianships, the guardian is likely to carry the responsibilities of a guardian of the property of the ward.
In being a guardian of the ward’s property, the guardian will be responsible for:
- Providing the court with an inventory of the ward’s property, assets and income.
- Disclosing how and where the ward’s funds are invested. Such funds must be invested and used to support and benefit the ward.
- Filing an annual accounting of the ward’s income and expenses paid on the ward’s behalf with the County Surrogate’s Office where the guardian was appointed.
- Seeking court approval for certain financial transactions if required by the court order.
- Providing proof, if requested, of adequate residential and personal health care arrangement for the ward.
Estate Planning Attorney
Do you think a loved one may benefit from the appointment of a guardian? Are you seeking to act in such capacity for a family member or close friend? It is a big step, but one that is sometimes necessary to protect your loved one. Reach out to the team at E.A. Goodman Law for answers to any questions you may have. Contact us today.
Posted in: Guardianship