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What happens when a loved one becomes incapacitated and he/she has not authorized a representative in advance to manage personal or financial affairs?  If your family member or close friend has dementia and can no longer go to the bank, pay bills, make health care decisions, etc., and he/she has not executed advanced directives, namely a NYS Power of Attorney or a NYS Health Care Proxy, you may be unable to care for or assist that individual without judicial intervention.

Unfortunately, seniors with dementia are at risk of financial exploitation.  In order to protect the individual, a guardianship petition may be brough to the New York State Supreme Court where a judge will determine whether the allegedly incapacitated person (the AIP) has capacity or not and whether a guardian should or should not be appointed.  Appointing a guardian means that the AIP loses the right to make their own decisions and the court does not take this lightly.  A guardianship judge will always use the least restrictive means available to solve the problem and preserve whatever autonomy the AIP can handle as much as possible.

Being a guardian of the person or property of an incapacitated person is a serious responsibility.  The guardian must take a course, get certified and post a bond.  Whenever possible, the courts prefer to appoint a family member or friend as guardian since they are most familiar to the AIP.  In cases where there is no one in the AIP’s life able to serve as guardian, the court may appoint a professional community guardian.

If you think someone you know needs a guardian, feel free to call me to discuss your concerns and devise a plan to help.