24 Aug Worried someone may want to be your guardian?
Q. How can you find out if someone has been appointed to be your guardian if no one ever told you and if they are in another state?
A. Your question wasn’t clear as to what type of guardianship you mean, but it sounds as if you might be a senior who is worried someone will try to take your independence away.
Let’s cover how guardianships work.
Guardians are appointed for both minors and incapacitated people with an application to the court in the state and county where the minor or alleged incapacitated person lives or where his or her property is located, said Catherine Romania, an estate planning attorney with Witman Stadtmauer in Florham Park.
In either case, once the minor becomes 18 then he or she receives the property, and if the incapacitated person returns to full or partial competency, the court upon application may restore to that person his or her rights, thereby dismissing or limiting the guardianship, she said.
Guardianships can be of the person, which is limited to making medical or similar decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person, or of the person’s property, or both.
It can also be limited, meaning the guardian is appointed only to make certain decisions such as financial ones. Or it can be plenary, meaning the guardian can be appointed to address all issues.
“Once a guardian of an individual’s property is appointed, the property is generally re-titled into the name of the guardian for the benefit of the incapacitated individual, for example, `Jane Doe, guardian for John Doe, an incapacitated person,’” Romania said. “This puts third parties on notice of the guardianship.”
In New Jersey, before someone can be appointed as the guardian of an alleged incapacitated person, the alleged incapacitated person has to be given notice of the proceedings. The person is also generally appointed an attorney by the court to advocate for them or to report to the court with respect to the situation, Romania said.
“These records are not open to public inspection due to the confidential nature of the information contained therein, including certifications from two physicians regarding the physical and mental condition of the alleged incapacitated person,” she said.
But information regarding the name of the guardian for the incapacitated person should be available in order that creditors and other third parties can know who to rely on when providing goods and services to the incapacitated person, she said.
Romania said the inquiry should be made to the Surrogate Court in the county the action most likely occurred, so that’s where you should start.
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