By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Guardianship Attorney
The best way to avoid a guardianship is for an older person to prepare a durable power of attorney before a health crisis occurs. That way, someone handpicked will be able to step in to make financial and medical decisions if necessary. But what happens when a guardianship proceeding is filed?
The Court Process and Guardianships
Anyone — including the proposed guardian, family members, and friends — may object to a guardianship in general, or to the specific choice of a proposed guardian. Someone who wants to block a guardian must file papers with the court, inform all interested parties (the proposed guardian, family members, and possibly close friends), and attend a legal hearing.
When someone begins a guardianship proceeding, a judge must hear evidence on the person’s mental capacity. If the judge concludes that a guardian is necessary, he or she will appoint someone — commonly, the spouse or adult child.
It’s rare, but sometimes several family members or friends want to be the guardian. If that happens, the judge follows preferences established by state law. New Jersey gives preference to the spouse, registered domestic partner, adult children, adult siblings, or other blood relatives. But a judge who thinks someone else is best for the job may pick that person regardless of blood relation.
Without strong evidence of what the guardian would do if mentally competent, it is unlikely that nonrelatives will be appointed guardian if a relative is available to serve. Because of this, guardianship proceedings may cause friction if an estranged relative is chosen as guardian over the conservatee’s partner or close friend. If no one suitable is available to serve as conservator, the judge may appoint a public or other professional conservator.
Contact me personally today to discuss your New Jersey guardianship matter. I am easy to talk to, very approachable and can offer you practical, legal ways to handle your concerns. You can reach me toll free at (855) 376-5291 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.