New York Guardianship Court Evaluator Report Can Support Finding of Incapacity

The New York Mental Hygiene Law provides for the appointment of a Guardian for and individual’s property management and personal needs. Article 81 of the statute requires that a Court find clear and convincing evidence to determine that a person is incapacitated. Mental Hygiene Law Section 81.12.

As discussed on our New York Probate Blog, there are numerous participants in a Guardianship proceeding, including the petitioner, the Alleged Incapacitated Person (AIP), the Court Evaluator and sometimes a Court appointed attorney representing the interests of the AIP. Among these persons, the Court Evaluator always plays an essential role. He or she provides the Court with independent information concerning such issues as the need for a Guardian and the AIP’s capacity, the appropriateness of the proposed Guardian, the nature and extent of the AIP’s property and the powers that the Guardian should possess. In some instances, the investigation by the Court Evaluator and information provided by the Court Evaluator’s report may constitute the major basis for the Court’s ultimate decision as to capacity and Guardianship appointment.

Such was the case in Matter of Incorporated Village of Patchogue v. Zahnd, NYLJ March 12, 2010 at 29 (Col. 1) (Supreme Court, Suffolk County 2010). In Zahnd, the attorney for the AIP asked the Court to dismiss the Guardianship Proceeding on the ground that the petitioner had failed to present “clear and convincing evidence” that the AIP was incapacitated.

The Court had appointed the New York State Mental Hygiene Legal Service as Court Evaluator. Over the objection of the AIP’s attorney, the Court determined that it would allow the Court Evaluator to present its report and testify before deciding the motion to dismiss. Essentially, the Court found that the Court Evaluator’s report and testimony was essential to a full determination of incapacity and such submission was in accordance with the Mental Hygiene Law. Thus, based upon the proof provided by the petitioner and the information supplied by the Court Evaluator, the Court denied the application to dismiss the Article 81 proceeding.

Guardianship proceedings can be very complex and involve numerous issues. Professional guidance and analysis is usually essential for the protection of anyone involved in these proceedings.

New York Guardianship Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York Guardianship Proceedings, Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York Guardianship or estate, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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