Who can sign for an incapacitated person?

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Q. In the absence of a durable power of attorney, who has the right to sign for an incapacitated person?
— A friend

A. It depends on what needs to be signed.

In order to engage in financial transactions with respect to assets solely owned by the incapacitated person who did not execute a power of attorney, a guardian will have to be appointed, said Shirley Whitenack, an estate planning attorney with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park.

For this, an application will have to be filed in the probate part of the Superior Court of New Jersey in the county where the incapacitated person resides.

“Absent an emergency, a guardian also will need to be appointed in order to make medical decisions for an incapacitated person who has not signed a health care proxy,” she said. “It generally is not necessary to be appointed as an agent under a power of attorney or health care proxy or legal guardian for someone else to sign an assisted living or nursing home admissions contract or a Medicaid application.”

But before you sign someone else’s admissions contract, but sure to read the fine print to make sure you don’t become responsible for the bills.

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This story was originally published on July 22, 2019. 

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