Conservatorship NJ: Understanding the Process in New Jersey

Navigate the complexities of Conservatorship in NJ with this comprehensive guide. Learn how the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC can assist you through the legal process.

What Is a Conservatorship?

When our loved ones are unable to handle their affairs due to age or physical infirmity, it is only natural to want to assist them as much as possible so they can live comfortably. However, legally, there are limitations to what you can do on behalf of a mentally capable adult, no matter how good your intentions are. 

You’ll need to obtain formal court approval through a process known as a conservatorship if you hope to play a bigger role and take over specific responsibilities for the benefit of your loved one.

A conservatorship is a legal arrangement wherein a person or organization called the conservator is appointed by the court to manage another individual’s estate or financial affairs. The process will empower you or any other competent person to protect your loved one’s estate and finances and handle their affairs subject to the court and conservatee’s approval. 

Initiating a conservatorship might be what your loved one needs to live a stress-free and fulfilled life, depending on their circumstances. However, conservatorships are complex creations of law, and you may need legal guidance to navigate the legal requirements and court process.

 At the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC, we understand what a conservatorship can mean for you and your family. We know how the conservatorship laws in New Jersey work and can help you navigate the legal complexities so you can protect your loved one’s interests.

Read on as we explain the basics of New Jersey conservatorships and share specific ways we can help.

When Conservatorship Is Necessary

A conservatorship may be necessary when an individual can no longer manage their financial matters due to

  • Advanced age
  • Serious illness
  • Physical infirmity

In such situations, conservatorship provides a way to ensure that the person’s finances are handled responsibly. 

Conservatorship Vs. Guardianship

While both guardianship and conservatorship are protective arrangements, there are distinct differences, so one shouldn’t be mistaken for the other. Conservatorship typically focuses on managing the financial affairs and estate of an individual who is still mentally competent but recognizes the need for assistance. 

A conservatorship must be voluntary and can only be arranged with the conservatee’s consent.

On the other hand, guardianship applies to individuals who are judged incapacitated by the court. In such cases, a guardian will be appointed to manage the person’s personal affairs in a general or limited capacity. The court does not require the consent of the protected person (the subject of a guardianship case) to appoint a guardian. 

Sometimes, understanding the Differences Between Conservatorships and Guardianships can be difficult. If you are considering guardianship or conservatorship to protect your loved one and are unsure which legal arrangement is appropriate, our New Jersey guardianship attorney can assess your case and point you in the right direction.

The Legal Process for Conservatorship in NJ

The steps to conservatorship in New Jersey can be summarized as follows.

Filing the Petition

The process begins with filing a petition in the superior court of the county where the conservatee resides. The petition can be filed by 

  • The conservatee
  • Their spouse
  • Their adult children
  • Any person concerned about the conservatee’s financial and personal wellbeing
  • A public agency or a social services official of the county where the conservatee resides 
  • The chief administrator of a state-licensed hospital, school, or institution in which the conservatee is a patient or from which they receive services.
  • The chief administrator of a non-profit charitable institution in which the conservatee is a patient or from which they receive services.

Notice of Hearing

All interested persons, including close relatives like spouses, adult children, and the conservatee (if they are not the petitioner ), must be notified once conservatorship proceedings are initiated. This allows them to participate or contest the conservatorship if necessary.

The Hearing

The conservatee must be present at the hearing unless it is impossible for them to attend.

If the conservatee is unable to attend the hearing, the court may order an investigation to verify that the conservatee does not object to the process. The court may also appoint a lawyer for the conservatee if it is necessary to protect their interest.

Appointment

If the court approves the petition, it will appoint a conservator and grant them the legal authority to manage the conservatee’s assets.

Who Can Be Appointed as a Conservator?

A conservatorship is a voluntary protective arrangement and requires the full cooperation of the conservatee. As such, the law allows them to choose a person or financial institution to serve as their conservator, and their preference is always given priority.

If the conservatee does not have any specific preferences, the following category of people may be appointed in this order;

  • The conservatee’s spouse;
  • The conservatee’s adult child or, where there is none, their closest relatives
  • Some other proper person or financial institution as determined by the court.

This order of priority is followed most of the time. However, the court in a conservatorship case may deviate from it if a potential conservator is unable or refuses to serve or for any other reason.

Acceptance

The conservator must formally accept the appointment if they are willing to take on the role. Once this is done, they will be issued letters of conservatorship signifying their authority to act on behalf of the conservatee.

Legal Obligations of a Conservator 

A conservator’s duties could include 

  • Managing assets
  • Processing and collecting government benefits such as Medicaid or Social Security on behalf of the conservatee
  • Paying bills.

In fulfilling these roles, they are required to abide by certain rules, including the following:

  • Fiduciary Duty: A conservator must act in the conservatee’s best interest when managing their financial affairs. This includes, but is not limited to, the prudent management of assets, timely payment of bills, and making wise investment decisions.
  • Accountability: A conservator remains accountable to the court, the conservatee, and other interested parties, including family members or other designated individuals throughout the conservatorship.
  • Reporting: It is mandatory for a conservator to provide detailed and periodic reports to the court regarding the status of the conservatee’s estate, including records of financial transactions.

Ending a Conservatorship in New Jersey

A conservatorship in New Jersey ends when

  • The conservatee dies
  • The court terminates it upon the application of the conservatee
  • The conservatee becomes incapacitated.

A conservatee who is found to be incapacitated still needs protection. In such instances, it may be time to pursue a general or limited guardianship, depending on the circumstances.

Our team at the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC understands the intricacies of   Guardianships and can help you navigate this delicate transition to ensure your loved one remains protected.

How the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC Can Help

When a loved one faces difficulties due to age or physical infirmity, ensuring their protection and proper management of their affairs is paramount.

At the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC, we understand the complexities of establishing a conservatorship in New Jersey. We are committed to protecting the interests and welfare of your loved ones and ensuring the conservatorship process is handled with utmost care and legal excellence.

We know that each family’s needs are unique, so the first thing we do when handling such cases is to assess the circumstances and determine whether guardianship or conservatorship is appropriate. In either case, you can count on us to guide you through the legal process, handle the necessary paperwork, and work diligently to ease the burden on you and your family.

Contact Us Today

A conservatorship allows a court-appointed third party to manage an individual’s property on their behalf. The appointment of a conservator can bring relief to families who struggle with the legal restrictions that prevent them from taking on important roles on behalf of their physically infirm loved ones.

However, the road to this relief is complex, necessitating the need for legal guidance. 

At the Law Offices of Wenarsky and Goldstein, LLC, we are deeply committed to assisting our clients with the intricate process of establishing conservatorship in New Jersey. Our vast experience in estate planning and guardianship law equips us to navigate these proceedings with the highest level of professionalism and care.

If you have further questions about conservatorships or want our help to begin the process, we encourage you to contact us today. We’d be happy to answer your questions and help you get started as soon as possible. 

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.

CONTACT US TODAY