The decision to seek an adult guardian is not taken lightly in New York. When an individual is deemed unable to make decisions regarding their personal life or financial affairs without placing themselves or others in harm’s way, the court will appoint a competent adult as a guardian. Decision-making difficulties might arise from a mental illness, developmental disability, or cognitive decline due to aging or health conditions.
Generally, guardianship can take two forms:
Guardianship of the person
In matters of guardianship of the person, the guardian is called upon to make decisions geared toward securing the ward’s safety and wellbeing. Decisions can be made in all areas, including housing, education, medical treatment, pursuing therapy, access to confidential records and travel choices. At all times, the guardian must make informed decisions and must ensure that any necessary medical treatment or health services are provided in a timely manner.
Guardianship of the property
Guardianship of this type specifically refers to the proper management of the ward’s financial affairs. If this guardianship is voluntary, it means the ward is competent most of the time and voluntarily selects a guardian to oversee these matters. If the court determines that the individual is unable to tend to these matters without guidance, an involuntary guardianship might be ordered. The guardian is responsible for not only the care and maintenance of the financial affairs but must also work toward increasing the value of these assets. Additionally, the guardian must maintain a strict inventory and accurate financial records at all times.
While guardianship can often be characterized as a loss of control and loss of freedom, it is crucial to remember that some individuals need this level of guidance to ensure they live a happy, healthy life. A guardian will watch over a ward who lacks the capacity to make well-informed decisions regarding their personal or financial matters. Whether due to a developmental disability or cognitive deterioration with age, a vulnerable person must be actively protected.