New York Guardianship Laws are contained in Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (MHL). These statutory provisions are utilized in many situations where a person in need is Alleged to be Incapacitated. Quite often the Alleged Incapacitated Person ("AIP") is elderly and is suffering from the effects of a sudden medical condition such as a stroke or cardiac arrest or the long term deterioration of mental capacity due to dementia.
Whatever the circumstances may be, the family or friends of an elderly individual who loses the ability to attend to Activities of Daily Living, can follow the procedures outlined in Article 81 and attempt to have a Guardian appointed. New York Guardianship attorneys provide guidance to their clients who want to petition the Court for the appointment of a Guardian of the Person or Guardian for Property Management.
The Guardianship law provides a sort of safety net for persons lacking capacity, particularly in the case of the elderly. MHL Section 81.06 entitled "Who may commence a proceeding", allows a Guardianship Petition to be commenced by just about anyone who has a concern about the AIP including anyone who resides with the AIP and "a person otherwise concerned with the welfare of the person. . . ." While petitions for Guardianship are usually commenced by family members, the proceedings are sometimes started by a hospital, a nursing home or a governmental agency such as the New York City Department of Social Services where Adult Protective Services provides community intervention. By having an expansive list of individuals and entities that can intercede on behalf of an AIP, there is a greater possibility that an AIP can receive Court intervention and protection particularly where no family member exists or the AIP's family will not become involved.
A recent article in FoxNews.com published on December 28, 2012 describes the situation of the elderly in China where the national legislature amended its laws to require that adult children visit their elderly parents "often" or run the risk of being sued by the parent. According to the article, the law was instituted due to a number of factors including increased elderly population in China where the social safety net is lacking and there is a limit on family size which creates a large financial burden for elderly care on just a single child.
One can only imagine the plethora of lawsuits that would deluge the Courts if such a law was enacted in New York. While Guardianship proceedings in New York may be formalistic by requiring Court papers and hearings in front of a Judge, the proceedings do provide a process to protect elderly persons from harm due to incapacity. Of course, Estate Planning prior to incapacity in the form of a Health Care Proxy, Living Will, Living Trust and Last Will is always the best course to follow in order to avoid the need for a Guardianship.