New York City Guardianships Attorneys
Scaffidi & Associates is a law firm with a reputation for proficiency and individualized legal counsel. As New York City Guardianship attorneys, we work hard to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Our Guardianship clients are typically family members, friends, or those appointed to fiduciary posts by the court. Those they want to protect may be minors without a parental guardian, or adults who can no longer make sound decisions because of dementia, brain damage, or incapacitating psychiatric illness.
Guardianships are important legal tools established to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals who are not able to care for themselves. Typically, courts create guardianships in two types of cases:  when the parents of minors become unable to care for their children and  when elderly individuals become unable to tend to their own physical and/or financial needs. When you become someone’s legal guardian, you are tasked with making decisions for that person who is now known as your ward.
You may be granted temporary custody of a child or adult for about 60 days under emergency conditions, but in order to handle conditions with legal implications, such as enrolling a child in school, managing an adult’s bank account, or applying for benefits for a person of any age, you will require the status of guardian. The process of setting up a guardianship may take up to four months, and sometimes even longer. The court needs this processing time to notify relatives and do a thorough investigation of the proposed guardian.
Examples of situations in which it is necessary to establish a guardianship are many. When, after a car accident, a child’s surviving parent is in a coma, a guardian may have to be appointed to take care of that child — physically, emotionally, and financially. Another instance in which guardianship may become necessary is when an elderly person suffering from dementia becomes incapable of managing his or her finances, driving, or engaging in simple acts of self-care such as remaining hydrated or taking prescribed medication. In order to proceed in such situations, it is essential to have a knowledgeable and skilled attorney to help you navigate the process.
Because guardianship involves taking away many of the ward’s rights, particularly if the ward is an adult, the court is an integral part of the process to ensure that the ward is not being taken advantage of or abused.
Guardianships for Minors
Reasons for a minor to be considered for legal guardianship include: the parent cannot provide shelter, does not have a steady income, suffers from a debilitating or fatal illness, or is incarcerated. In most instances, parental approval is sought prior to any legal proceedings.
In the guardianship of a child, a person other than the child’s parent or de facto custodian has both legal custody and control over the minor and will be the child’s primary caregiver. This is why it’s so important for the court to have oversight. As guardian, the appointed adult (who must be at least 18 years of age) is legally responsible for the child and will make decisions for the child regarding:
- Medical treatment
- Enrollment in public school
- General welfare
- Everyday concerns
Although legal guardianship does not include financial responsibility, which remains with the parents, in many situations, depending on the circumstances, the guardian provides financial support as well. Even if the child is being financially supported by parental resources, the guardian is charged with managing those assets in a responsible manner, providing for all of the child’s needs. Depending on the circumstances, the legal guardian may be chosen by the biological parents or appointed by the court.
What is a guardian ad litem?
A guardian ad litem is an individual appointed by the court to take the place of the minor in a court proceeding involving the child’s interest. A guardian ad litem may also be appointed for an adult who isn’t competent to make rational decisions without assistance. The guardian ad litem may be a close relative, friend, or attorney. In cases in which the guardian ad litem is not an attorney, the ward is often additionally represented by an attorney.
How long does a guardianship last?
Although temporary guardianships may be established in some cases, full guardianship of the minor ends when one of the following occurs:
- The child reaches the legal age of 18
- The child’s assets are expended (if the guardianship was for financial purposes only)
- The child dies
- The court determines that the guardianship is no longer needed
The guardian may also resign his or her position if it becomes necessary. In such cases, a judge will appoint a replacement guardian.
Guardianships for the Elderly
Unfortunately, a large percentage of elderly adults lose some mental, as well as physical, capacity as the years’ pass. Many become incapacitated to the point that they are not only unable to manage their financial affairs but may be easily scammed or manipulated into losing their life savings. In some cases, dementia makes them not only incapable of driving but of finding their way home. They may even deteriorate to the point that they forget to eat, drink, or bathe. When their finances and their very lives are endangered, family members usually recognize the need to institute safeguards in the person of a guardian.
As far as financial matters are concerned, the guardian will be charged with paying bills, protecting assets, arranging property appraisals, and preventing asset loss whenever possible. The guardian must obtain court approval before selling any major assets and may be required to report to the court about financial actions taken on an annual basis.
Why You Need the Competent, Compassionate Attorneys of Scaffidi & Associates
In most cases, clients come to us to start the process of establishing guardianship in order to:
- Access, Protect and/or Manage their loved one’s finances
- Protect their loved one from being exploited by scam artists
- Provide personal care for a loved one who refuses help
- Create or amend trusts to benefit their loved one
- Take control of choosing an appropriate residence for their loved one
- Be able to make medical, end-of-life, property, or marriage decisions for their loved one
- Keep their loved one from owning a firearm or other weapon
- Keep their loved one from driving
- Prevent their love one from signing contracts or filing lawsuits
Because so many of the ward’s rights will be severely restricted by guardianship, the ward is always entitled to due process. He or she must be notified of all legal proceedings, has the right to attend them, and the right to be represented by an attorney.
Contact Our New York City Guardianship Lawyers
In many cases, our clients are distressed by their relative’s decline, discovering that their loved one’s bills are unpaid, that they have entered numerous costly sweepstakes or purchased expensive items they have no use for, or that they are eating spoiled food or forgetting to drink enough fluid. They may also be dealing with frightening situations in which the person they love gets lost and cannot remember his or her own address. Obviously such signs of mental deterioration are calls to action. At Scaffidi & Associates, we are well-equipped to assist you in creating a guardianship so that you will be able to protect your relative or friend and make the remainder of his or her life as comfortable, safe, and pleasant as possible. Please get in touch with us by phone or by filling out a contact form on our website.