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A guardian is an individual who is legally appointed to make decisions on behalf of a person who is incapable of making decisions on his or her own for various reasons. A legal guardian may be a relative or a close family friend. A person may be appointed the guardian of a minor, an adult who is physically or mentally impaired, or an adult who is incapacitated. Elderly people often make up the majority of guardianship petitions, especially if they suffer from dementia due to advanced age. However, guardianships may also apply to minor children if both parents are deceased, or if a parent becomes handicapped due to illness or injury that causes paralysis or brain damage. In the state of New York, there are various types of guardianship petitions, and it is important to learn the differences between them to find out which kind is most appropriate for your situation.
When a parent passes away, a legal guardian may need to be appointed for his or her minor child. This can also be the case if a parent becomes too ill to take care of the child or leaves the country for military service. In New York, this form of guardianship petition can be filed in Family Court or Surrogate’s Court. In some cases, parents may name a person to serve as the guardian of their child when they create a will. A judge may still have final approval over the will, and they may appoint the designated person as the child’s legal guardian. In any case, the court will rule based on what is in the best interests of the child. When the court enforces the terms of a will, that is called “probating” the will.
When an individual turns 18 years old, he or she is assumed by the state of New York to be lawfully competent to make responsible choices. If an adult who has developmental disabilities or cognitive impairments is unable to make decisions for himself or herself, it may be appropriate to name another person as his or her guardian in order to properly meet his or her needs. A guardianship petition is filed in Surrogate’s Court, and it can request guardianship over the person, his or her property, or both. Documentation stating the medical diagnosis must typically be submitted by two physicians or by a doctor and a psychologist. This type of guardianship covers major life decisions that would normally be made by a parent who is providing care for a minor child, including directives about financial matters and any necessary medical treatment.
Unfortunate circumstances can cause a once-healthy adult to become incapacitated. These situations can involve a catastrophic injury or serious illness. For example, someone who was in a car crash could be paralyzed due to spinal cord damage. Senior citizens may become unable to make their own decisions because of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. In these scenarios, an Article 81 guardianship may be filed in the Supreme Court in New York. This petition specifies which decisions the guardian is allowed make and those that the disabled individual can still decide.
The choice to take care of another person is one of the most selfless acts a person can perform. Making decisions on someone else’s behalf can protect his or her welfare. If you would like to become an individual’s legal guardian, it is important to understand the different types of guardianship. Goldberg Sager & Associates has valuable experience in guardianship and elder law. One of our New York City guardianship lawyers can guide you through the legal steps to ensure the well-being of your loved one. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 718-514-9516.