In New Jersey, everyone who reaches the age of 18 (the legal age of majority), will be able to legally make their own decisions. Parents can no longer make decisions on behalf of their children who are 18 or older. This is true even when the child has disabilities that may make them unable to make sound decisions regarding their care or other important aspects of their life.
To deal with this issue, parents may want to establish a guardianship arrangement. A guardian is someone that can act on behalf of either a minor or an incapacitated person (also known as a “ward”). The guardian will ensure that their ward’s health, welfare, and safety needs are met. He or she will also protect their ward’s rights in virtually every aspect of the ward’s life.
When Does Someone Need a Guardian?
A guardian is only necessary when someone cannot make decisions for themselves. Being able to take care of yourself includes managing your own affairs, such as your finances or healthcare. As a rule, if someone is not competent enough to consent to something because he or she will not fully understand it, having a guardian in place is likely a good idea.
Types of Guardianship
Your child may be able to manage some aspects of his or her life, but not everything. In those situations, a more limited type of guardianship may be appropriate. There are two types of guardianships:
- General Guardianship. A general guardian is necessary where the ward is unable to make any decisions on behalf of him or herself. This expansive role is sometimes referred to as “plenary” guardianship.
- Limited Guardianship. Some guardianship arrangements are limited so that only decisions in a specific category are addressed. For example, a guardian may only be authorized to make legal decisions. Permissions are usually expressed in categories, such as in education, healthcare, financial, and residential issues.
You must petition the Court to establish a guardianship. As part of the process, the ward will be evaluated to determine the extent of his or her disability. Someone from the Department of the Public Advocate will also represent the individual to ensure that his or her rights are protected in the proceedings. If the representative agrees that having a guardian is a good idea, then there is no need to have a court hearing. If the representative disagrees, a hearing will be held to address the issues.
It’s always a good idea to hire a New Jersey attorney who knows the process well to help you with your application. The Matus Law Group’s team of professionals can walk you through the application process and represent you if a hearing is necessary. Please contact us for more information.