New Jersey courts generally want people to have as much autonomy as possible when it comes to making health care decisions and handling their financial affairs. However, sometimes a person becomes mentally or physically incapacitated to the point that they can no longer make these decisions on their own. Some people, before becoming incapacitated, execute a medical and financial power of attorney, which names the person who is to make these decisions on their behalf. However, in the absence of such documents, the court must assign a guardian to handle the incapacitated person’s affairs. Today, we will focus on guardianship of the estate, in which a guardian handles an incapacitated person’s financial affairs.
As soon as possible after the guardianship hearing, the guardian must qualify before the County Surrogate. Sometimes, it is necessary to post a surety bond. Guardians must also obtain letters of guardianship and possibly short certificates.
Once a person qualifies as guardian of the estate, they have certain obligations. They must open a separate bank account that will be used for guardianship purposes and obtain a tax identification number for that account. Any assets and accounts must be retitled in the name of the guardianship. Any transactions must be recorded. The guardian of the estate must investigate and inventory the protected person’s property and debts. All original documents must be kept in a safe and secure place. Sometimes, it is necessary to file periodic reports regarding the estate of the incapacitated person.
To the greatest extent possible, decisions regarding the estate must be discussed with the protected person, with consideration being given to their preferences. If the incapacitated person cannot make these decisions, then the guardian must act in what they believe is the incapacitated person’s best interests.
Premiums must be paid on surety bonds, if required. If the guardian’s address changes or the incapacitated person’s address changes, the County Surrogate must be notified. Finally, once the incapacitated person passes away, the Surrogate must be given notice of this fact.
This is only a brief overview of the duties of the guardian of the estate. Ultimately, this post cannot replace the advice of an attorney. Those who need legal advice on this topic are encouraged to seek the assistance needed to make informed decisions.