Help for Adult Guardians

Help for Adult Guardians

Acting as a guardian for an adult can be challenging and often presents complicated legal questions. Working with an experienced adult guardianship attorney can help you get clarity, resolve legal issues, and ensure that you are in compliance with the Order and Judgment appointing you guardian.

New York Attorney for Adult Guardianship Matters

New York recognizes two different types of guardianship for adults: Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 (MHL Art. 81) guardianship, and Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Article 17-A (SCPA Art. 17-A) guardianship.

Regardless of the law authorizing the guardianship, a guardian must fulfill specific legal obligations and abide by specific rules. Even after being appointed, MHL Art. 81 guardians in particular often must petition the court to get permission from the judge to undertake certain actions, such as moving the incapacitated person (IP) to a new residence or engaging in Medicaid planning on their behalf.

Because New York guardianship proceedings can be complicated, it is usually best to retain an attorney who is experienced in these matters. A knowledgeable attorney can help guardians comply with court orders and applicable laws, increase the likelihood that the court will grant the guardian’s petition, and protect the legal interests of the guardian as they work in their loved one’s best interests.

Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian in New York State

While the age and unique needs of an incapacitated person will dictate the specific duties and responsibilities of a guardian, a guardian in New York is generally responsible for:

  • Paying bills on behalf of the IP (also known as the “ward”)
  • Maintaining records of the ward’s income and expenses
  • Making medical decisions on behalf of the ward and arranging for medical care
  • Ensuring that the ward has any needed assistance in managing activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Managing home care services
  • Preventing physical and financial abuse and exploitation of the ward
  • Tax planning
  • Visiting the ward
  • Filing annual guardianship reports regarding the ward’s well-being and finances

An experienced New York guardianship attorney is an invaluable resource for the many questions that may arise in the course of a guardian’s duties.

Protecting Adult Guardians Against Challenges

Adult guardianship shifts decision-making power from the ward to the guardian. Sometimes there are other family members or friends of the disabled adult who disagree with how a guardian is exercising their authority. If those individuals believe that the guardian is not acting in the incapacitated person’s best interest, they may ask the court to modify the guardian’s powers or remove the guardian and appoint another.

The ability to challenge a guardian’s authority is intended to protect the well-being of the ward. However, addressing legal challenges can also divert the time, resources, and attention the guardian needs to devote to their loved one and this makes it more difficult for the guardian to carry out their duties. An experienced attorney not only advises the guardian in fulfilling their obligations to the ward, but defends the guardian in court against unwarranted challenges.

The Law Firm of Daniel J. Reiter, Esq.: Compassionate Counsel for Guardians

Attorney Daniel J. Reiter represents clients in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County. If you have questions about adult guardianship in New York, Daniel can help.

Learn more about guardianship attorney Daniel J. Reiter, read testimonials from people he has helped, and get answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Then contact the Law Firm of Daniel J. Reiter, Esq. to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If I petition to have a guardian appointed in a Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 proceeding, will I have to serve as guardian?

No. Even if you are the “petitioner” – the person who is asking the judge to appoint a guardian – you can ask the judge to appoint someone else. If there are no family or friends willing and able to serve, the judge can appoint a non-profit organization or “independent” professional guardian to serve.

My disabled child is about to turn 18. Am I automatically able to make decisions for them when they turn 18?

No (except for limited exceptions). In New York, parents are the natural guardians of their children until age 18. However, once a child reaches 18, even if they are developmentally or intellectually disabled, a parent cannot automatically make decisions for their adult child. Guardianship is often necessary for developmentally and intellectually disabled adults who do not have capacity to manage their own affairs without assistance.

If I am appointed guardian, can I force my ward to take psychiatric medication?

Although most guardians are authorized to make routine and non-routine medical decisions on behalf of their ward, the administration of psychiatric medication to a person who objects requires special authorization from a judge, even if you were already appointed guardian.

How long does it take to get a guardian appointed and authorized to act in a Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 proceeding?

There is no set time. However, from the time counsel is retained, it usually takes about 2-4 months total for the guardian to begin acting. However, if a guardian is needed immediately, the judge can appoint a “temporary guardian” while everything gets sorted out. This speeds up the process.

What is the difference between a guardian and a conservator?

Generally, none. New York used to use the terms conservator (today’s version of guardian of the property) and committee (today’s version of guardian of the person). Many states still use the term conservator, but the concept is the same.

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