Confronting the need for a guardianship arrangement is never easy. It’s not just about dealing with legal proceedings. It also involves making crucial decisions that affect the lives of loved ones. The implications of this type of arrangement are profound, and handling it alone can feel overwhelming when you’re already dealing with a difficult family situation.

With nearly 60 years of combined experience, the seasoned New York guardianship attorneys at Amoruso & Amoruso LLP are here to guide you through every stage of your guardianship case. Michael Amoruso and Sreelekha Chakrabarty Amoruso have an extensive background in guardianship matters. From the initial filings to necessary court appearances, they can ensure your guardianship arrangement serves your loved one’s best interests.

Ready to make a difficult process more manageable? Contact Amoruso & Amoruso LLP today and learn what a New York guardianship lawyer can do for you.

What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court proceeding in which a petitioner requests that the court appoint a guardian to handle the property management and personal management of an alleged incapacitated person called a ward. (Note that Connecticut uses the term “conservatorship” instead of guardianship, and the designated person to handle the ward’s affairs is called a conservator.)

Court orders are necessary to establish guardianships. Depending on the type of guardianship proceeding, Courts can order guardianships for minors and adults deemed incapacitated and unable to manage their own affairs. Guardianship requires the least restrictive means of intervention, so if the individual has a valid health care proxy or power of attorney in place that covers all of the powers needed, a guardianship can be avoided.

In New York, the specific Court utilized for a guardianship depends on the type of guardianship the petitioner desires to commence. Generally, the Family Court handles guardianship cases for minor wards, the Surrogate’s Court handles guardianship cases for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, and the Supreme Court handles cases involving adult wards alleged to be incapacitated.

A guardian’s level of authority varies depending on the case’s specifics. Some guardianships grant limited authority, covering specific aspects of the ward’s life or financial affairs. Others grant more comprehensive authority, encompassing all aspects of the ward’s affairs.

Guardianship is a significant commitment that entails serious legal responsibilities. Furthermore, it limits and, in some cases, removes the ward’s rights and autonomy, so it’s important to ensure guardianship is appropriate before entering such an arrangement.

A guardianship proceeding for an incapacitated adult can also be utilized to engage in Medicaid planning to protect the assets of the ward from the high costs of home care and nursing home care if the ward failed to execute a robust Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy that authorizes such authority. This can be particularly useful in a spousal case where all assets are jointly owned with the ward or in the case of a single individual where there is a desire to protect assets with Medicaid planning.

What Is Uncontested Guardianship?

An uncontested guardianship case is one in which all necessary parties agree on the necessity of appointing a guardian and who that guardian should be.

Unlike contested guardianship cases, these cases involve no opposition and generally move more quickly through the legal system. The court, however, is still responsible for ensuring the guardianship is in the ward’s best interest.

Because everyone agrees in an uncontested guardianship case, the process is usually less adversarial and emotionally stressful. Nonetheless, anyone involved in a guardianship proceeding should consult a legal professional to ensure everything is in order and that the arrangement truly benefits the ward.

Who Typically Serves as a Guardian in New York?

New York guardianship judges assess the suitability of a guardian on a case-by-case basis to ensure the best outcomes for a ward.

Many guardians are close family members, such as parents, adult children, or siblings. Courts might consider friends or other non-relatives for guardianship if no family member is available or suitable.

If no individual is willing or able to serve, the court will appoint a professional guardian. Professional guardians are individuals or agencies that have completed the required certification to be a court-appointed guardian and have registered with the Office of Court Administration.

Appointed guardians are required to act in the best interests of their ward and are likewise required to account to the Court each year regarding their actions on behalf of their ward.

Types of Guardianship

In New York, guardianship arrangements primarily fall into one of the three following categories:

  • Child (Article 17) Guardianships – This type of guardianship is for minor wards under 18. The appointed guardian is responsible for caring for the child and making decisions on their behalf, similar to a parent’s role.
  • Intellectually or Developmentally Disabled Person (Article 17-A) Guardianships – This type of guardianship is for individuals who are intellectually or developmentally disabled. These arrangements generally continue throughout the ward’s lifetime and provide all-inclusive powers, unlike Article 81 for incapacitated adults
  • Incapacitated Adults (Article 81) Guardianships – This type of guardianship is for adults who cannot manage their own affairs due to age, illness, or disability. Unlike Article 17-A, Article 81 is highly flexible and customizable to the ward’s specific needs and limitations.