If you have a loved one who has become incapacitated due to an accident or medical event or condition, you may be wondering who will take care of that person’s decision-making going forward. According to New York law, anyone over 18 years old who is a legal U.S. resident or citizen with no criminal record may file a petition to become a guardian. 

Here are some things to consider before you decide to take on this responsibility yourself. 

Are you able to carry out the duties of a guardian?

Typical guardianship duties include making health care, education and welfare decisions. You may need to manage financial matters such as paying bills and managing investments or taking care of properties. 

If you want to help with personal matters but do not feel qualified to take care of the finances, do not give up on your wishes to help your loved one. The court may assign some responsibilities to you through a guardianship of the person and designate someone else as guardian of the property. 

Has your loved one already chosen someone?

If someone else has already agreed to become guardian and the loved one designated that person in an estate planning document, it may be wise to honor that choice. Your loved one likely discussed wishes and needs before creating the document. 

However, if you believe you would be a better guardian, you may want to talk to that person and to other family members. That person may be happy to have your help or even want you to take over. Even if he or she is unwilling, if you have reasons to believe your loved one is not in good hands, you can still apply to the court to take over. 

No matter what, before you begin taking over guardianship duties, you should make your role official through the court system.