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Guardianships for People with Disabilities

Last updated on: January 23, 2023

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.

Speaking to an experienced New Jersey guardianship attorney may be able to help you understand your roles and responsibilities if you want to pursue guardianship for your child.

When Does Someone Need a Guardian?

guardianship lawyer in New Jersey

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.

Even though they can seem similar, guardianship is different from conservatorship. In a guardianship, the guardian will have to make decisions on behalf of their ward. In a conservatorship, the conservator will make decisions about the ward’s estate. The conservator is also tasked to manage the ward’s estate. The guardian and the conservator are usually the same people.

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:

  1.     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.
  2.     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.

Establishing Guardianship

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.

Contested Guardianship Proceedings

Although most guardianship petitions go through the legal system quickly, there are instances when the appointment may be challenged. Sometimes, an individual might object to guardianship and claim that they are able to manage their affairs without the help of a guardian. Another scenario is when another family member files a petition to become a guardian.

These cases can be emotionally complex and involve litigation. Protracted litigation is not the best option for anyone. 

By speaking to an experienced guardianship lawyer, you may be able to find a fair and mutually agreeable solution to these kinds of issues. If a compromise is not possible outside of litigation we are ready to help you get the matter resolved. 

The guardianship attorneys at the Matus Law Group understand the difficulties involved in these situations and will work with you one-on-one to create a plan that will ensure your loved one receives the support and care he or she requires. Even though court proceedings are not always easy, we know how overwhelming and confusing they can be. This is especially true if it’s your first time dealing with the legal system. Our lawyers will answer all your questions and make every effort to ensure that the process is as smooth and quick as possible.

Contact Guardianship Attorneys at the Matus Law Group Today

It’s always a good idea to hire a New Jersey attorney who knows the process well to help you with your application. A skilled lawyer may be able to help you understand your role and help you avoid making mistakes when it comes to guardianship. 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.

Christine Matus

Christine Matus
Christine Matus

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