Guardianship for Adults with Disabilities In New Jersey & Pennsylvania
Guardianship For Adults With Intellectual Disabilities
Individuals with developmental disabilities and/or mental illness often have difficulty caring for themselves or managing their finances independently. For this reason, the law permits parents, siblings, and other caregivers to petition the Court to be appointed as guardians of their loved ones with special needs when they turn 18 years of age. This appointed guardian then has the power to legally act on behalf of their loved one.
There are two types of guardianship:
- Guardianship of the Person: allows the guardian to make decisions regarding everyday activities such as educational needs; appropriate living arrangements, access to medical records and consent to medical treatment.
- Guardianship of the Property: allows the guardian to make decisions regarding the finances of their loved one. Specifically, the guardian shall act in the best interest of their loved one to preserve his or her own assets. This includes opening and closing bank accounts, paying bills on the individual's behalf, and signing contracts on the individual's behalf.
With limited exceptions, the guardian does not become liable for the actions of their loved one nor does the guardian assume any financial responsibility towards the individual. The guardian is only responsible for protecting the assets of their loved one and ensuring that he or she is safe. Once appointed as guardian, this position is permanent unless revoked by the Court.
Overall guardianships have limitations that are important to understand.
- A guardian can request to add co-guardians to the guardianship, however, this requires court approval.
- Guardianships are not permanent. The Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilitiesannually will review the individual’s continuing need for guardianship.
- In the event that a guardian dies, a successor is not automatic. Since only the court can change who has been appointed guardian or co-guardians, this is true even if the guardian’s will names a new guardian.
- Parents of adult children have options to remain involved in medical issues without guardianship approval and might be asked as next-of-kin for consent in the event of a medical emergency.
In some cases, individuals with disabilities may not need a caregiver to make all of their decisions on their behalf. In those instances, caregivers may choose another option to ensure their loved ones are cared for -- such as Conservatorship, Limited Guardianship, or Power of Attorney.