There are a number of reasons that an adult in New Jersey may become unable to take care of his or her own matters.

According to the New Jersey Courts, when an adult becomes incapacitated, a probate judge may appoint someone to take care of the individual’s needs.

What causes incapacitation?

The court has a specific list of impairments that may render a person incapacitated:

  • Mental illness or deficiency
  • Developmental disability
  • Physical disability or illness
  • Chronic drug use
  • Chronic alcoholism

The law does not consider an individual incapacitated until there is a court ruling to that effect. During this hearing, one or more physician affidavits must verify the incapacitation based on recent examinations. Generally, this hearing is scheduled after someone files a complaint.

Who can be a guardian?

In some cases, a potential guardian may need to appear at the guardianship hearing. The New Jersey Courts explain that anyone who wants to be a guardian must qualify before the Surrogate of the relevant county. A potential guardian must also acquire Letters of Guardianship from the County Surrogate. Short Certificates may also be necessary.

What does a guardian do?

A guardian’s responsibilities depend on the protected individual’s needs, but in general, it involves making health, education and welfare decisions for the incapacitated person. If the individual can express preferences and these are not harmful, the guardian should consider these first. The guardian should visit the protected person at minimum, one time every three months, and he or she should create opportunities for activities and social events.

If the incapacitated person is unable to make financial decisions, Guardianship of the Estate may be necessary.