New York Article 81 Guardians Are Bound By The Court To Act Properly

The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed the powers and obligations of a property management and personal needs Guardian. When a person is found to be incapacitated and a Guardian is appointed, the Court maintains scrutiny over the actions of the Guardian.

One of the safeguards provided by Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) is that the Court may require the posting of a bond (MHL Sec. 81.25). A bond is essentially an insurance policy issued by a surety company that insures payment to creditors and others entitled to receive the incapacitated person’s funds in the event the Guardian misappropriates those funds. The Court will set the amount of the bond based upon the value of and income from the assets of the incapacitated person. Since the Court appointed Guardian must qualify for the bond, the surety will check the Guardian’s credit and financial history. A poor credit history may result in the denial of a bond and, thereby, prevent a person from qualifying as a Guardian.

It is a good practice, which I follow, to have the bonding company review a client’s credit before he or she files a petition for appointment as a Guardian so that we can be certain the client can qualify if appointed.

Another safeguard provided by the law is contained in MHL Section 81.31 which requires that the Guardian file an Annual Report with the Court every May. The Annual Report contains information concerning the Guardianship financial transactions that occurred during the prior year along with information regarding the incapacitated person’s physical and mental condition. This information is typically reviewed by a Court Examiner. In the event the Court Examiner finds information that shows improper conduct on the part of the Guardian, the findings will be reported to the Court.

A recent case where a Guardian’s actions were found to be improper was reported by Daniel Wise in the New York Law Journal on January 6, 2011. The Article entitled Guardian Must Return Funds Paid to Family For Ward’s Care, described a case where a lawyer-guardian was required by the Court to repay to the incapacitated person’s estate over $100,000.00 that the Guardian had paid to a company that provided care to the Incapacitated Person. It was found that the company was controlled by the Guardian’s spouse. Judge Charles J. Thomas also ruled that the Guardian had to forfeit commissions and legal fees.

Guardians are required to be diligent in the performance of their duties. Both Guardians and the families of the Incapacitated Person often require legal representation to fully understand and protect their interests.

New York City Guardianship Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in Guardianship matters in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York Guardianship, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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