Using Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 to Protect Family Members Key in New York Counties such as the Bronx and Westchester

It seems like every week you hear a story on the news or read in the newspaper about an elderly person who suffers physical abuse, either by a caretaker or family member. Sometimes the person victimized is handicapped or otherwise dealing with challenges in life.

Sadly, it often takes law enforcement intervention to protect these adults. But there is another type of abuse in New York that sometimes goes unreported and it involves people who try to take advantage of a person’s finances.
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In other cases, an older adult is simply no longer capable of handling his or her own affairs. In still other situations, a parent of an adult child with mental or physical challenges wants to make sure he or she is cared for after the parents pass on. A New York Guardianship Attorney can assist in such cases via New York’s Mental Hygiene Law Article 81, which allows for the appointment of a guardian to handle a person’s financial affairs or personal needs. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed many aspects of Guardianship occurring throughout New York in counties such as the Bronx and Westchester.

A special-needs trust may also be established to ensure that an adult child is cared for. Too often, parents will purchase life insurance for this purpose, not realizing that a lump sum settlement can make an heir ineligible for social security, Medicaid or other vital government programs.

People will sometimes use the lure of money and the instability of an elderly adult’s mental state to try to take advantage. But New York State laws provide opportunities to stop this type of injustice.

Under Mental Hygiene Law Article 81, there are certain guidelines that set forth factors a judge will take into consideration when deciding to appoint a guardian and the powers that guardian will have. This can be a litigious process, with family members arguing about whether a guardian should be appointed or not. But it also offers more protection than a power of attorney, which grants legal authority, sometimes broadly, to act on a person’s behalf and can be easily abused.

An interesting case in New York where these issues have been brought up is the case of heiress Huguette Clark, the 104-year-old who was a recluse but who had homes and assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Her case is fascinating not only because she was worth millions of dollars, but also because she didn’t live an all-out lifestyle. Ms. Clark lived mainly in hospital rooms. Her case is also not unique because distant family members allege that her attorney unlawfully solicited a $1.5 million gift from her in 2001, as previously discussed in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog.

Knowing and understanding the tools of guardianship proceedings and the ways to help an incapacitated person can assist you and your family in protecting loved ones and ensuring they are properly cared for, either in their old age, or after you pass on.

In situations like these, an experienced guardianship lawyer is necessary to assess a case and determine the best course of action. The last thing a person expects is for the wealth and assets they’ve acquired over their life to be squandered by a fraudster. If they are being taken advantage of, they deserve someone to intervene on their behalf.


New York Guardianship Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to guardianship and estate settlement. I have represented clients in these matters throughout New York including the Bronx and Westchester Counties. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.

More Blog Entries:

Huguette Clark Case Should Get Interesting If Will is Contested in New York Court: May 31, 2011

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