The responsibility of becoming a loved one’s legal guardian is enormous, but even more confusing to some people is how they become a guardian in the first place. You can make the application to the court to become someone’s guardian, but the court may decide to pick someone entirely different for the role. So how does the court decide who becomes someone’s guardian?

What is a Guardian?

    In simple terms, a guardian is someone who is appointed by a court to oversee the legal, medical, and/or financial matters of another person. This person must be someone who is otherwise unable to handle those matters themselves, such as a minor child, a person suffering from a severe illness or injury, or someone struggling with dementia. They also must generally be someone who does not have other measures in place, such as a power of attorney or health care proxy, to handle their affairs.

How Does a Guardian Get Appointed?

    For a court to appoint a guardian, someone (usually a relative) must first make an application to the court with evidence demonstrating that the person in question cannot handle their own affairs. Once the court has been convinced that a guardianship is appropriate, it will look for potential available candidates, which typically includes the applicant themselves. People can submit evidence of their fitness (or others’ unfitness) to be a guardian, and based on that evidence, the court will appoint a guardianship.

What is the Court’s Criteria for Picking a Guardian?

    The fundamental goal of the court is to ensure whoever is appointed as the guardian can be trusted in that role, and that they will not abuse their authority to the detriment of their ward. They also want someone they can trust to handle all legal, financial, and medical issues that may arise, including ensuring their bills are paid and ensuring they make all necessary appointments. While the court will tend to prefer close relatives (or at least those who know the person well) a court may choose to even appoint a lawyer or other agent of the court, if they feel no one else is qualified for the role.

What Should You Do if You Disagree With the Court?

    If the court appoints someone to be a loved one’s guardian and you disagree with their appointment, you may have legal options available. Likewise, you can defend yourself if someone else accuses you of not being able to handle the responsibilities of being a guardian. The only way to know what options are available to you, however, is to speak to a lawyer with experience handling guardianship cases.

    The guardianship law attorneys at David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC will work with you to determine whether a guardianship might be necessary for your loved one, and help you to get a guardianship that will suit your needs. For comprehensive guardianship and elder law services in New York, call David J. Lorber & Associates, PLLC at (631) 750-0900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation at our Setauket office. 

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