When you are concerned about a disabled adult family member or loved one and their ability to make important decisions about their finances and health care, you should seek advice from a disabled guardianship attorney in New Jersey about your circumstances. At the Law Offices of Scott J. Goldstein LLC, we know that the decision to pursue a disabled adult guardianship is never easy, and that there are many different issues to consider. We want our loved ones to live full and happy lives, and we want them to be able to exercise agency for themselves in a range of decision-making matters. Yet in many situations, it is necessary to consider a guardianship for your loved one’s well-being. Sometimes adult guardianships are necessary for your child following a devastating accident. Adult guardianships are also often important for older adults who are no longer able to care for themselves due to debilitating diseases like dementia.
If you have questions about whether pursuing a disabled adult guardianship is the right decision, or if you need assistance filing papers to move forward with a disabled adult guardianship case, our firm is here to assist you.
What Are Guardianships for Disabled Adults?
A guardianship is a legal process through which a guardian is appointed to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated adult. New Jersey defines a guardian as “a person or agency appointed by a court to act on behalf of an individual.”
Guardianships can occur for a disabled adult who suffers a devastating injury, rendering them unable to voice their own decisions or to make decisions on their own, as well as for elderly adults who become incapacitated due to issues like Alzheimer’s or other cognitive diseases.
When is it appropriate to Seek a Guardianship for a Disabled Adult in New Jersey?
Before you seek a guardianship, it is important to consider whether the disabled adult in your life requires a guardian, or whether there are alternatives that could still allow the disabled adult to have some autonomy while ensuring that all financial, legal, and related matters are handled appropriately for that person. For example, a revocable power of attorney may allow you or another person to make important decisions on behalf of a disabled adult while still giving that person a certain amount of autonomy.
The scope of a guardianship will also be important to determine, since a limited guardianship can ensure that a disabled adult is properly cared for while also making sure that the disabled adult retains some amount of personal autonomy and the ability to make certain decisions.
Different Types of Guardianships in New Jersey for Disabled Adults
There are different terms used in New Jersey to describe the types of guardianship that may be appropriate in any given circumstance. According to the New Jersey Courts, there are three different types of guardianship that can be considered appropriate. The appropriate type of guardianship in a particular case will depend upon the circumstances of that case and the needs of the disabled or incapacitated adult. Those three types of guardianship include the following:
● Guardianship of the person: This type of guardianship involves making decisions for an individual person, and a guardianship of the person alone is usually appropriate when an adult is incapacitated but does not have any assets, income, or real property aside from Social Security or other public benefits, or assets held in a trust. A guardianship of the person gives the guardian the ability to make decisions about the person’s health care, legal issues, residence, education, and so forth.
● Guardianship of the estate: This type of guardianship gives the guardian the ability to make all decisions about property, including assets and income.
● Guardianship of the person and the estate: When a disabled or incapacitated adult has any assets or income other than government benefits or assets held in a trust, the court will usually consider a guardianship of the person and the estate because the guardian will need to make decisions for the person as well as for their property.
Sometimes you will also hear of guardianships being described as general or plenary guardianships, or as limited guardianships. These terms refer to the scope of the guardianships described above. A general or plenary guardianship is one that is a guardianship of the person and the estate, and it is appropriate in situations where a disabled adult is completely incapacitated legally and cannot many any decisions for themselves. Limited guardianships are those that cover only some issues because the disabled adult can still voice or make some decisions on their own. A legal guardianship might give the guardian the ability to make decisions about only financial issues, for example, or to handle matters involving legal issues, finances, and health care.
How to Apply for a Guardianship of an Adult with Disabilities
When you believe a disabled adult in your life—regardless of that person’s age or whether they live with you—needs to have a guardian appointed for their well-being, it is important to discuss the circumstances with a guardianship attorney in New Jersey. You can learn about the process for having a guardian appointed, and your lawyer can work with you to start the process of submitting a Verified Complaint, an affidavit from a health care provider or psychologist, and additional documentation required under New Jersey law.
What Should I Expect in a Disabled Adult Guardianship Process?
The guardianship process has many different steps for which you should prepare, recognizing that appointing a guardian is a legal process. Those steps usually include the following:
● First, in most cases, you should determine whether a guardianship is appropriate and truly necessary. According to New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities within the Department of Human Services, “guardianship should be viewed as a solution of last resort, because it removes an individual’s fundamental right of self-determination.”
● Next, to institute a guardianship action, you will need to submit a number of forms, including a Verified Complaint, an affidavit or certification from a physician or psychologist who has examined the disabled adult to determine incapacity, and various supporting documents.
● After you have submitted the initial materials and the Verified Complaint, those materials will be reviewed, and an order will be entered setting the hearing date. The order will need to be served on the person for whom you are seeking a guardianship, and a court-appointed attorney will be assigned for the person who is allegedly incapacitated. That attorney will then investigate and will make a guardianship recommendation based on their findings.
● When the court decides to appoint a guardian, it will enter a judgment establishing the guardianship. Any decision to modify the guardianship or to remove it at any point will need to go through the court.
Contact a Guardianship Attorney in New Jersey for Assistance
If you have questions about guardianships for disabled adults, or if you need assistance determining whether guardianship is the right course of action to pursue, one of our experienced New Jersey disabled guardianship attorneys can assist you. Guardianships can be important and essential for disabled adult children, as well as for elderly parents and other elderly loved ones who have become incapacitated and cannot make significant decisions for themselves any longer. Our firm knows how difficult it can be to make the decision to pursue a guardianship, but it is often the right choice for your loved one and for you. Contact the Law Offices of Scott J. Goldstein LLC online today or call our firm at 973-453-2838 to learn more about how we can assist you with a disabled adult guardianship case.
Call the Law Office of Wenarsky & Goldstein
At the Law Offices of Wenarsky & Goldstein, LLC, our New York and New Jersey attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable in bankruptcy, estate planning and probate, guardianship, special needs planning, and real estate law. To learn more about how we can assist you with your legal needs, call us today at 973-453-2838.