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New Jersey Guardianship Attorneys

New Jersey Guardianship Attorneys

Guardianship Proceeding Lawyers in Bergen County, NJ Provide Skilled Legal Counsel for Clients in Passaic County, Essex County, and Throughout New York, including Queens County, Nassau County, and NYC

If a family member has a physical or mental disability that keeps them from taking care of their own personal, legal, medical, or financial needs, you may need to appoint someone to make these important decisions on their behalf and look out for their safety and best interests. A guardianship or conservatorship is a legal arrangement in which an individual is appointed by the court to handle legal, medical, or financial decisions for a person who the court has designated as incapacitated and unable to make such decisions for themselves. When you have a loved one who may need or is already subject to guardianship, the qualified New Jersey guardianship attorneys at the Choi Law Firm can help you protect your loved one’s rights.

Since 2005, the Choi Law Firm has worked diligently to provide excellent legal services to clients throughout New Jersey and New York City. Our lawyers have 90 years of legal experience between them, which they use to come up with custom solutions to our clients’ legal problems and disputes. Our reputation for success is reflected in the fact that our clients refer us to family and friends who need high-quality legal assistance. 

Our guardianship law firm handles cases in Bergen County, Passaic County, Essex County, Queens County, Nassau County, and throughout North Jersey and NYC. Reach out to us today for a consultation to discuss the details of your case with our experienced legal team. 

If an adult member of your family becomes incapacitated, it may be necessary to seek legal guardianship to protect their finances and to ensure they receive the best care possible.

In New Jersey, a person needs a guardian when he or she doesn’t have the mental capacity to make decisions that make sense and understand the results of those decisions. A person can’t be declared in need of guardianship simply because he or she makes irresponsible or foolish decisions. The law requires the person to show a lack of capacity (i.e., a lack of understanding) to make sound decisions concerning their general health, welfare, safety, and financial well-being. 

While many times a durable power of attorney, living will, or advance healthcare directive can obviate the need for guardianship proceedings, that is not always the case.

Guardianship proceedings may become costly if litigation is required, either because of infighting between family members or situations where the incapacitated person does not acknowledge his or her own limitations. 

Pre-planning to avoid litigation, or brokered agreements once, are always ideal. But sometimes litigation is unavoidable. Luckily, the Rules of Court of the State of New Jersey frequently permit a party seeking appointment as Guardian to recover his or her reasonable counsel fees from the incapacitated person’s assets.

We are experienced at handling complicated guardianship proceedings, should they become necessary.

Types of Guardianships: Person vs. Property

General Guardianship: The Broadest Powers Allowed by Law

When a person is completely unable to care for themselves or their property, the New Jersey Superior Court can give someone general guardianship over that person and their property. That necessitates a finding that the person not only lacks the capacity to manage her finances but also lacks the capacity to govern his or her personal affairs in any meaningful way. Since guardianship takes away almost all decision-making power from a loved one, a judge will need clear and convincing proof of a state of incapacity, backed up by appropriate doctor certifications. However, each case is different, and we would need to review your specific situation to evaluate the case and determine what proof is needed by the court.

A guardianship is a court-appointment granting plenary responsibility over an incapacitated individual, tantamount to the relationship between a parent and a small child. Just a few examples of the profound decision-making powers of a guardian are:

  1. Choice of where the person lives (at home with assisted living, in a nursing home or other institutional setting, etc.) 
  2. Control over financial affairs
  3. Control over legal affairs
  4. Power to restrict or even prevent visitation by predatory family members or “friends” of the incapacitated person. 
  5. Medicaid and assert protection planning
  6. Medical decision-making for the incapacitated person

Given the broad powers of general guardians, courts take guardianship applications very seriously. Needless to say, the substantive and procedural rules are complex and must be followed with laser0lke precision.  

Limited Guardianships

Oftentimes, incapacity is not an “all-or-nothing” proposition. Rather, it will fall somewhere along a spectrum—i.e., a person can make responsible choices in certain aspects of their life, but not others. For example, managing complex finances has become too daunting, but a person is still capable of some independent living. 

In such cases, a judge may appoint guardianship and grant decision-making power over only the areas in which the incapacitated person is unable to make meaningful decisions on his or her own. This is called “limited guardianship.”

Dealing With A Legal Guardianship Matter In New Jersey Or New York? We Can Help. Just Tell Us About Your Case. Call 201-613-5557 Or Fill Out Our Convenient Online Contact Form.

Who Can Qualify to Serve as Guardian

The law favors the appointment of a spouse or close family member when family members—referred to as “next of kin” in the Court Rules—cannot agree. Cooperation or power-sharing is always best, but sometimes the court has to make the final call after a trial. In addition, non-family members can be appointed as guardians of the person or property of another in certain situations. For instance, a distant cousin from another state may technically outrank a close friend, but the friend may be best suited to serve as the guardian. Ultimately, what guides the court’s analysis is a determination of the best interests of the incapacitated person. Court battles can be emotionally draining, but we handle all guardianship proceedings with sensitivity for everyone involved.

Guardianship vs. Conservatorship

In New Jersey, a proceeding to protect the finances of an adult is called a “conservatorship.” Like guardianship, a conservatorship is a court-supervised arrangement for a person (called a “conservatee”) who cannot handle his or her own financial affairs. The person appointed by the court to manage the affairs of another is called the “conservator.”

A conservatorship never conveys decision-making over personal affairs, like living arrangements or medical decision-making. The power granted to a conservator only extends to financial and legal matters. The main distinction between a limited guardianship of a person’s property and a conservatorship is that a conservatorship is voluntary. In a legal sense, the person who needs help is the one who asks the court to appoint a conservator. But if the incapacitated person does not agree (and often, the person may not recognize his or her own limitations, and thereby become angry or confused), a guardianship proceeding is necessary.

Can a Power of Attorney Avoid a Guardianship Proceeding?

The best way to deal with a guardianship situation may be to avoid it beforehand. As part of any comprehensive estate plan, we recommend the preparation of a power of attorney, advance directive, and healthcare proxy. As Benjamin Franklin famously stated, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Oftentimes, clients who come to us for guidance in a guardianship situation involving a friend or relative will simultaneously galvanize their own estate plan.

Our qualified guardianship proceeding lawyers in Bergen County, NJ have the experience and resources necessary to offer you excellent legal representation in guardianship matters such as:

  • Filing court petitions to implement a guardianship or conservatorship for a loved one who has difficulty or an inability to handle their own affairs
  • Contesting actions under a previously executed power of attorney, establishing a guardianship/conservatorship to recover or prevent “theft” or loss of an incapacitated individual’s assets
  • Opposition by the subject of the guardianship on grounds that they are not incapacitated
  • Disputes between family members/close loved ones over who should serve as guardian, or petitions to remove and replace an existing guardian/conservator
  • Disputes over appointing a professional to serve as guardian as opposed to a family member
  • Expenses of the guardianship, including reimbursements to a family member serving as guardian or the cost to hire a professional guardian, or other costs including hiring lawyers, accountants, or financial planners
  • Whether to set aside powers of attorney, health care proxies, or advance care directives previously executed by the subject of guardianship, if they lacked the capacity to execute such documents 

Get Advice From An Experienced Guardianship Attorney Serving Clients In New Jersey And New York. All You Have To Do Is Call 201-613-5557 To Receive Your Confidential Case Evaluation.

How The Choi Law Firm’s New Jersey Guardianship Attorneys Can Help You and Your Family Resolve a Guardianship Dispute

Whether you want to set up a guardianship for a loved one who isn’t able to take care of themselves, you don’t want to be put under guardianship, or you want to argue about a family member’s guardianship, our guardianship law firm can help you get a fair and favorable outcome in your case by:

  • Providing close communication throughout your case, including prompt responses to your phone calls and emails to answer your questions and provide you with updates on the progress of the matter.
  • Offering excellent legal representation, including putting in the time and work necessary to develop and present you with a wide range of options to pursue an outcome favorable to your interests.
  • Taking advantage of our legal team’s knowledge and experience to diligently advocate on behalf of you or your loved one to fight for a successful result in your case.
  • Quickly acting where necessary to protect and preserve your or your loved one’s interests, especially when guardianship proceedings can move very quickly or where your loved one’s safety or security is at stake. 

When you need advice that you can rely on, the New Jersey guardianship attorneys at the Choi Law Firm can offer the seasoned legal experience and knowledge you deserve. 

If you want to set up guardianship for a loved one or are in the middle of a contested guardianship proceeding, our firm can help you protect the interests of your loved one through experienced legal advocacy. Contact the Choi Law Firm today for an initial case evaluation with our New Jersey guardianship attorneys to learn more about guardianships and how we can assist you with your matter. 

What is a guardian?

A guardian is an individual who is appointed by the court to make healthcare and personal decisions on behalf of an individual who cannot make those decisions or who cannot voice their preferences for themselves due to illness, injury, or physical or mental disability. Similar to but distinct from a guardian is a conservator, who is a person appointed by the court to handle a disabled, ill, injured, or otherwise incapacitated person’s financial affairs.

Who can serve as a guardian?

Courts normally appoint a close family member or friend to serve as guardian, as they are likely to know what the incapacitated person’s wishes would likely be if they were not incapacitated. However, if no suitable family members or friends are available to serve, courts will usually appoint a specially trained attorney who regularly serves as a professional guardian in guardianship cases.

Can guardianship be avoided by having the person who would be the subject of the guardianship sign a durable power of attorney?

No. For a power of attorney to be valid, the person executing the power of attorney must have the capacity to understand their rights and the consequences of their decision and the ability to clearly express their wishes. Someone who has been declared incapacitated by the court lacks this ability and cannot execute a valid durable power of attorney. However, a durable power of attorney executed by someone become they became incapacitated would likely be valid and eliminate the need for a guardian.

“I always felt that they were genuinely fighting for me; truly looking out for my best interests."

I am very grateful for Sandra Choi and her team. They were kind, compassionate, thorough and very professional throughout the entire process of my case. I always felt that they were listening to my concerns and interests and provided all the professional advice and answers to my questions that I needed to feel confident about my decisions.”

“One of the best things about Ms. Choi is that she is caring and listens carefully to understand your situation."

Sandra Choi is attentive, kind, thoughtful, and professional. She was thorough and well-prepared throughout my case, and I was impressed by her honesty and work ethic. Ms. Choi and her team were helpful and responsive to my questions and concerns, and she certainly exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend Ms. Choi and her team.

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