Morris County Guardianships Attorney
Let’s face it: anyone can be seriously injured in an accident or suffer an incapacitating physical illness or psychological disorder without warning. Depending on the circumstances, the only way to protect the rights of those who are incapable of caring for themselves is to establish a guardianship.
At E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, our estate planning practice includes preparing guardianship applications for families throughout the state of New Jersey. We are well versed in the applicable laws governing guardianships and work closely with our clients to make the necessary arrangements.
What is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is a legal arrangement that places an individual, referred to as a ward or protected person, under the supervision of a guardian or custodian. A guardian is typically a family member or close friend; however, a guardian may also be a court-appointed fiduciary.
Under New Jersey law, a legal guardian may be established over an individual who is (1) a minor without a parental guardian, or (2) an adult who is mentally incapacitated, disabled, or suffering from severe dementia and no longer capable of making safe and sound decisions about his or her own person or property. The New Jersey Chancery Division Probate Court will appoint a guardian to manage the financial and/or medical and personal affairs of the protected person.
In order to commence a Guardianship Proceeding, the petitioner must have two physicians certify that the alleged incapacitated person is unable to manage his or her person and property. The court will hold a hearing to determine whether the individual is incapacitated as well as to verify that the petitioner is capable of acting as a guardian. Once appointed, the guardian is responsible for taking on a number of important duties to oversee the ward’s care.
Types of Guardianship
Generally, there are two types of guardianship – guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate or property:
Guardianship of the Person – The guardian is responsible for attending to the incapacitated individual’s care and welfare and has authority over matters such as where the ward will live, necessary medical care, and end-of-life decisions. A guardian also has an obligation to maintain the ward’s autonomy to the extent that it is possible.
Guardianship of the Estate or Property – This type of guardianship is necessary when an incapacitated individual has not established an estate plan. Such guardianships are often temporary arrangements that protect the ward until he or she regains capacity.
The person appointed as guardian is authorized to make important financial decisions on behalf of the protected person, including managing bank accounts, investments and real estate. The guardian is also authorized to use funds to pay bills and expenses such as rent or a mortgage.
Additionally, the guardian of the estate can apply for public benefits, such as Social Security and Medicaid on behalf of the protected person. Finally, the guardian must also file an annual accounting of all income and estate expenses with the court.
Guardianship of Minors
Guardianships may also be used to protect the legal rights of a minor if a parent is no longer capable of acting on behalf of his or her child. In these situations, a close relative is usually appointed as the guardian. The conditions under which a guardian may need to be appointed include:
- The child’s parents are incapacitated or have died
- The child is receiving inadequate care from the parent(s)
- The child is being abused
It is important to note, however, that parental approval is typically sought prior to any legal proceeding. Moreover, a guardianship does not terminate the legal relationship between the biological parents and the child.
What rights does a person placed under a guardianship have?
Appointing a guardian may limit certain rights of a protected individual, such as:
- Choosing where to live
- Entering into contracts and property transactions
- Obtaining a driver’s license
- Receiving informed consent for medical treatment
- Making end-of-life decisions
Because a guardian has an obligation to act in the best interests of the ward, the appointed person must be capable and trustworthy. Nonetheless, a ward still retains due process rights. This includes the right to attend any legal proceedings related to the guardianship and to be represented by an attorney who can present evidence and question any witnesses.
New Jersey Guardianship Attorney
Arranging for the care of a minor child or adult who cannot care for themselves is a serious responsibility that requires the advice and guidance of skilled guardianship attorneys. The team at E.A. Goodman Law, LLC, has a well earned reputation for providing our clients with caring efficient service while helping them arrange for the proper care of loved ones. In addition to preparing all the required guardianship forms and documentation, we routinely represent clients at guardianship hearings. Knowing that placing a loved one in a guardianship is a difficult decision, we offer each client compassion and knowledge and help them navigate the process. Get in touch with us today by calling our office or completing the contact form on our website.