A guardianship is a legal arrangement designed to protect the well-being of individuals who cannot make decisions for themselves. New York has specific rules and regulations that govern guardianships.
You must understand the process, legal requirements and essential information when you appoint a person to make decisions for another individual.
Understanding the basics
You may need a guardian for someone due to age, mental illness, developmental disabilities or other factors. At any given time, there are an estimated 1.3 million active conservatorship or guardianship cases in the United States. The Family Court, Supreme Court or Surrogate’s Court handles a guardianship case depending on the type requested and the ward.
New York recognizes three primary types of guardianships:
- Guardian of the person: This grants authority to make personal and medical decisions for the ward, such as healthcare, living arrangements and day-to-day matters
- Guardian of the property: This arrangement pertains to managing the ward’s financial and property affairs, such as handling assets, income and bills
- Guardian ad litem: A judge assigns this type of guardian to act for a person during a court case when they cannot defend their rights or protect their interests
The handling of your case and relevant regulations vary depending on the type of guardianship you seek.
Setting up a guardianship
If you believe someone needs a guardian, you should first file a petition with the Surrogate’s Court in the county where the individual resides. The court then evaluates the individual’s incapacity. This process requires evidence and typically involves medical and psychological assessments.
Once appointed, the guardian has specific responsibilities that depend on the type of guardianship. A guardian must act in their ward’s best interests and report to the court regularly. The court plays a supervisory role, overseeing the guardian’s actions to protect the ward. Annual accountings are mandatory for guardians of property. These detailed reports provide transparency regarding the ward’s financial matters.
Following New York’s legal procedures and acting in the ward’s best interests ensures the protection and well-being of those who most need it.