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Understanding Legal Guardianship in New Jersey
Many people think of guardianship as being something that only happens with children under the age of 18. Although legal guardianship can entail caring for a minor child, there are actually many reasons why you might need to set one up.
Let’s look at guardianship in New Jersey, why you might need such an authorization, and the types of guardianship for which you can apply, depending on who you’re caring for in your life circumstances.
What’s Guardianship in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, a guardian is someone (usually an individual, but sometimes an agency) who’s given the legal authority for another person. That person may be an elderly individual, an underaged child, or a person whose mental faculties are incapacitated.
The guardian is given the right to make decisions for the individual regarding personal care, medical care, housing, transportation, and meals. For instance, if the individual requires a medical procedure such as surgery, the guardian must sign the informed consent paperwork to authorize that treatment. The guardian is also given control over the individual’s finances and is authorized to manage their assets, investments, and debts.
Parents with custody of their minor children are already considered the legal guardians of that child. However, at 18, those children are now considered legal adults, regardless of their mental capacities or any disabilities. It’s at this point that a parent may wish to apply for legal guardianship of their adult child if they aren’t able to make decisions for themselves.
Whenever possible, the courts encourage the guardian to work in conjunction with the individual to make joint decisions. It should also be a last-ditch effort to handle a person’s issues as this will almost completely remove the person’s rights to make decisions for themselves. Once a guardianship order is authorized, it cannot be taken back without another court order, which will require additional legal filings and fees.
Reasons You May Consider Guardianship
There are several reasons why you might want to consider being a guardian. These include:
- You’re a caregiver to an elderly loved one who can no longer make decisions for themselves;
- Your loved one will have a need for long term care or assistance due to mental and/or general health decline;
- You’ve cared for a child for at least 12 months and the biological parents can no longer care for them;
- You’re the caregiver for a developmentally disabled child turning 18; and
- Your loved one has become incapacitated as defined by the New Jersey courts.
Any one of these reasons would be considered by the courts as a reason for such a petition.
There Are Two Types of Guardianship in New Jersey
In New Jersey, there are two basic types of guardianship: Guardianship of the Person and Guardianship of the Property. Let’s take a closer look at each of these types:
- Guardianship of the Person: This is the “traditional” idea of a guardianship in that the guardian can make personal decisions for a person. This can include most of the previously mentioned categories such as residence, medical care, transportation, and the like.
- Guardianship of the Property: This type of guardianship focuses on a person’s finances (It is also sometimes classified as a Limited Guardianship). Here, the guardian can handle all aspects of a person’s money matters including their banking, bills, credit cards/debt, and investments. They can borrow and loan money in the name of the person they are caring for and can also buy and sell stocks and bonds as they see fit.
In these cases, a court will have to determine that the person doesn’t have the ability to make these decisions for himself/herself. They’ll usually appoint a close family member (spouse, parent/child, sibling) to take on the task.
In the case of parents being named as a guardian of their adult child, they can further name a new guardian in their will who’ll take over should the parents die. With this type of guardianship, the person is solely responsible for the management of finances. They will have no say over the personal care of the individual for whom they’re a guardian. However, they’ll have to show that their decisions are in the best interests of that person, and they may be removed if the court later determines that they’re mismanaging the finances.
- In addition to these two, a court may also decide to appoint a temporary guardian. This is while they review the full petition to the court for guardianship and that decision is still pending. It’s usually issued when there may be some contention as to whether or not someone should be named as a guardian.
Taking on the job of being a guardian to someone is a huge responsibility. But if a person can’t care for themselves, it is a necessity so that their best interests can still be followed.
Contact the Knowledgeable Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you’re faced with caring for an individual who needs assistance via the form of a guardianship, you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.