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Guardianship and Disability Law

Guardianship for a younger adult

If you have a child with a developmental disability, such as autism or downs syndrome or some other form of intellectual disability, you may need to obtain guardianship once your child turns 18. Everyone is presumed competent, so regardless of the severity of the disability, once your child turns 18, you no longer have the legal authority to act as their “natural” guardian. In cases where your child is not competent to sign a Power of Attorney or Living Will, you will need to file to become his or her guardian in order to have access to their medical and financial records and to make medical and financial decisions for them.

In some cases, a limited guardian may be adequate, which respects the fact that in some decision making areas, your child is capable of making certain decisions for themselves. This is especially important for a young person who may, over time, develop better life skills as they mature and are exposed to real life situations.

Guardianship for an older adult

As we age, some of us develop a condition known generally as dementia that negatively impacts our ability to manage our own affairs. Most times, dementia is associated with Alzheimer's disease, but it can also be caused by a sudden debilitating event such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury. Dementia usually impacts our short term memory and causes us to lose executory functionality. For instance, we no longer know how to pay our bills or write a check, or we cannot retain information that was just given to us, or we become overly frustrated trying to accomplish tasks we previously had no trouble doing.

Caring for someone with dementia and watching them become more dependent on others can be extremely emotionally challenging. However, apart from the emotional stress, there are the practical issues relating to how that person's financial, medical and legal affairs will be managed and the mechanism for doing so. When this happens, the only alternative you may have is to petition the court to become that person's guardian.

A guardianship may also be necessary in situations where the person has a developmental disability (and presumably was never competent) or where they have a serious mental illness or drug addiction that renders them unable and unfit to manage their own affairs.

Guardianship is a complex area of law that is constantly changing. It's wise to retain an attorney with knowledge and experience in this area of law to help achieve the best results for you and your family.

Try Our On Line Services

If you are seeking guardianship for your special needs child or for an older parent or family member who may have diminished capacity, we encourage you to consider our on line legal service as noted below. We actually offer two legal services relating to guardianship.  One is called "Limited Representation" and the other is "Full Representation."

Limited Representation: For the Limited Representation, we will prepare all the pleadings and filing letters you will need in order to file your guardianship with the Surrogate Court in your county. These include the Verified Complaint, Physician Certifications, Certification of Assets and Court Orders. Although we cannot guarantee a final result in your case, we do guarantee that your papers will be accepted by the Surrogate Court when they are filed provided the required filing fee is paid. Once your papers are filed with the Surrogate's Court, you will then represent yourself pro se. All the paperwork will be done for you, at a cost of only $750.

Full Representation: For the Full Representation, we will represent you throughout the entire guardianship proceeding. Our fee is generally set at $2,500 if the matter is uncontested, and if the matter is contested (or becomes contested after the matter is initiated with the court), then the fee converts to hourly. 

In addition to guardianship, we offer other basic legal services via our on line process like wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Special Needs Trusts. Here is the pricing: 

1.     Estate Planning:

             Last Will and Testament: Single Person - $195   Married Couple - $295

             Power of AttorneySingle Person - $195   Married Couple - $295

             Living Will (Advance Medical Directive): Single Person - $195   Married Couple - $295

2.     Miller Trust (sometimes called a Qualified Income Trust) - part of Medicaid applications:    $550 (starting at)

3.     Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Benefits Trust:    $850 (starting at)

4.     Guardianship (for a person turning 18 or an older adult)

            Limited Representation: $750 (limited to preparing necessary pleadings to file with the court - call our office for details)

            Full Representation: $2,500 (if uncontested; if contested fee will be converted to hourly)

How it Works

The process is very simple. Just click onto our "on line services" tab below and follow the instructions on that page. You will be asked to fill out a simple contact form requesting basic information. There will also be a drop-down menu from which you can select the type of service you need. Once we receive your request, we will send you via e-mail the necessary link to begin the process. It's simple, fast and will save you a ton of money!

Handling Guardianship cases for Over 30 Years

As the former General Counsel to the New Jersey Office of the Public Guardian for Elderly Adults, I have been involved in hundreds of guardianship cases for over the past 30 years. Your case will not be our first, yet we will handle your matter with the sensitivity and understanding that all guardianship cases require.

So if a loved one you are caring for needs help managing their affairs or is vulnerable and at risk for being exploited – call us. . . we can help.

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