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New York Guardianship Lawyer

All parents of minor children should carefully consider the issue of guardianship. It’s essential that they identify one or more individuals capable of ensuring the well-being of their loved ones in the event that parents are no longer around to act as primary caregivers.

In the case of a child with special needs, however, the issue of guardianship must also be addressed as the child approaches the age of 18 because, regardless of the severity of the individual’s disability, she is legally considered a competent adult at that time. This means that parents must themselves apply for guardianship if a disability will prevent the child from making important decisions or living independently.

Guardianship should be considered as part of transition planning, which should begin during a child’s early to mid-teens. The process of establishing guardianship, if necessary, should be underway by the age of 17 or earlier, depending upon the situation. Furthermore, parents must continue to plan for the time when they will pass away and to name guardians to handle ongoing care for their loved ones with special needs.

A Serious Responsibility

Typically, guardians are responsible for some combination of the following for the individual in their care, referred to by the courts as the ward:

  • Managing assets, debts, and making other financial decisions
  • Consulting with the ward on medical decisions (or making them outright)
  • Managing daily routines and living arrangements

In the case of an individual with special needs, though, guardians should also have the time, tenacity, and emotional energy to advocate for the ward’s right to public benefits, to ensure an education appropriate for the child’s specific needs, and to facilitate participation in community life. A letter of intent, describing your child’s preferences, health needs, and daily habits, can be immensely helpful in smoothing the adjustment to a new caregiver.

The Process

The guardianship process involves certifying the disability of the person in question, as well as creating a report that explains how those special needs negatively affect the ability to manage her own affairs. A hearing will be called at which the both the ward and prospective guardians can testify or submit information. Detailed guidelines should be established concerning the guardians’ responsibilities versus tasks that the ward can handle.Because guardianship, by definition, involves a transfer of rights from ward to guardian, the courts are extremely conservative on this matter.

A guardianship is usually indefinite. On the other hand, anyone – at any time – can petition the court to modify or nullify an established guardianship, or to appoint additional or replacement guardians. This right to petition the court extends to the ward, offering individuals protection against the improper establishment or administration of guardianship. Our team of New York guardianship attorneys is experienced in identifying cases in which a guardianship can be reasonably contested.

The importance of all this for the families of individuals with special needs is obvious: take the time to set up comprehensive guardianship agreements and start the process early, since it can take quite a bit of time to complete. For parents with more than one child, clarifying the issue of guardianship as soon as possible ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to caring for the sibling with special needs.

Contact a qualified New York guardianship attorney at Littman Krooks today to schedule a consultation.

New York City Office
655 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, New York 10017
(212) 490-2020 Phone
(212) 490-2990 Fax
Westchester Office
399 Knollwood Road
White Plains, New York 10603
(914) 684-2100 Phone
(914) 684-9865 Fax
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This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. If you need legal advice concerning this or any other topic please contact our offices to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at 914-684-2100 or 212-490-2020.