Manhattan Guardianship of an incapacitated person, as well as proceedings throughout New York, requires a Court hearing and a determination that clear and convincing evidence has been presented that a Guardian is necessary. Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law ("MHL"), sets forth the substantive and procedural guidelines for the appointment of a property management guardian and a personal needs guardian.
Among the many considerations and determinations that the Court must make in these proceedings is the selection of the proper person or entity to act as Guardian. MHL Section 81.19, entitled "Eligibility as guardian," provides the Court with some direction in selecting an appropriate Guardian.
As a general matter, appointment of family members of the incapacitated person is usually preferred. In many cases, the Petitioner in the proceeding is a close relative such as a child or a spouse. Typically there is a long history of family closeness and caring that the Court will recognize in making its selection.
However, despite this preferential treatment, family members can face obstacles to appointment. In many cases the Court may require that the Guardian file a Bond with the Court. A Bond is similar to an insurance policy. It is obtained from a surety company that insures that if the Guardian misappropriates any of the incapacitated person's funds, the surety company will cover the loss. Unfortunately, sometimes a family member may not qualify to obtain a bond due to a poor credit history or criminal background.
Also, a Court may refuse to appoint a family member as a Guardian where there is a conflict of interest between the family member's interests and those of the incapacitated person or other family members.
Another instance where a family member may not be appointed is where some family conflict or hard feelings exist between competing family members or between the prospective appointee and the incapacitated person. In a recent case entitled Matter of Ella C., decided by the Honorable Betsy Barros on December 14, 2011 (Supreme Court, Kings County) and reported in the New York Law Journal on January 12, 2012, the Court was presented with a petition filed by three of the four children of the alleged incapacitated person. Following a hearing the Court found that the appointment of a Guardian was necessary but did not appoint any of the children, each for various reasons, including improper handling of their mother's financial affairs, animosity between them and their mother, and "mixed loyalties."
Queens Guardianship attorneys and lawyers representing petitioners and families in Guardianship cases throughout New York, must be aware of the requirements to have a Guardian appointed and also the qualifications that are needed for someone to be selected by the Court. As discussed above, just being a family member may not be enough in all situations to be named by the Court as a property management or personal needs Guardian.