Guardianships

At times, the law requires the appointment of a legal guardian to care for a person, to oversee a person's money, or to do both. For example, if parents die while their children are still minors, the law requires the appointment of someone to care for the children until they become adults. Hopefully, the parents designated in their Wills the person or persons whom they would like to serve as guardians of their minor children.

Sometimes a guardianship of an adult incapacitated person is required. Examples of circumstances when someone may petition the Court for the appointment of a guardian of a loved one include if a loved one suffers from Alzheimer's disease or other dementia impairing mental capacity , or a child with special needs attains the age of 18 and, therefore, is considered to be an adult, and lacks sufficient capacity to govern his or her own affairs. Under these circumstances, a family member or members may petition the Court to have their loved one declared mentally incapacitated and to be appointed legal guardian of the person, of the property, or of both the person and the property for the care and well-being of their loved one.

The process in New Jersey generally involves the petitioners' filing a Verified Complaint supported by physician affidavits. Upon the filing of the Complaint, the Court may appoint an attorney to represent the interests of the allegedly mentally incapacitated person. That attorney not only represents the interests of the allegedly incapacitated person, but also conducts an investigation and prepares a report to submit to the Court recommending how the Court ought to proceed. Ultimately, the matter will be set for a hearing at which the Court will render a decision on whether the individual should be adjudicated to be mentally incapacitated and a guardian or guardians appointed for that individual.