Your elder law guide to guardianship over a senior loved one

As our loved ones grow older, they may become incapable of managing their personal and business affairs. This can leave them vulnerable to scams, ill-advised decisions and the loss of assets. Luckily you can protect your senior loved one through legal guardianship. With legal guardianship a trusted individual is appointed to make personal, financial and medical decisions on behalf of your loved one. Here, elder law attorneys in New Jersey answer frequently asked questions about guardianship.

Is legal guardianship necessary? 

This legal appointment is important for several reasons, most importantly to help a senior loved one to maintain a good quality of life. Financial decisions such as managing investments and paying for home care or nursing are essential, as are decisions about the kind of medical care he or he needs to receive.

Unfortunately, even if your loved one has a spouse who is competent to make these decisions, they cannot legally do so without court ordered guardianship, a Living Will or a Power of Attorney which specifically grants this power to them. This makes this process absolutely essential in cases where a Power of Attorney is not contained in the estate planning documents.

Who should be appointed guardian? 

A guardian should be trustworthy and have your loved one’s interests first in mind above all else. This is because handing over financial, personal and medical control to another person makes your loved one incredibly vulnerable. In New Jersey, the state gives first preference to the spouse of the individual and, if he or she is unable or refuses, then on to an adult child.

How does the guardianship process work? 

This is a complex legal proceeding which generally comprises of the following steps:

  • Filing a complaint in the Superior Court in the county in which the incapacitated individual lives. This must include two separate medical affidavits from physicians who have examined the individual.
  • Filing an assessment of the incapacitated individual’s assets.
  • Attending a court hearing where a judge will oversee the petition to file for guardianship. Here, you will be represented by an attorney who will also have to interview the incapacitated individual and file a report indicating that guardianship is necessary.
  • If guardianship is granted, he or she will have to execute qualification forms and receive letters of guardianship. The guardian may also have to be granted a bond to help ensure against mismanagement of the incapacitated individuals affairs and finances.

Get support and expert knowledge from experienced elder law attorneys

At Sedita, Campisano & Campisano, LLC, we offer compassionate legal support for families and individuals seeking guardianship of a loved one. By working with you each step of the way and representing you and your loved one’s legal rights, we will help deliver a solution which allows you to properly care for your elderly family member. For more information on guardianship, veteran’s benefits, medical directives or other elder law concerns, please contact us today.

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