Article 81 Guardianship of an Incapacitated Adult in New York

Article 81 Guardianship of an Incapacitated Adult in New York

As people age, they gradually lose the ability to care for themselves. There are also occurrences when a person becomes physically incapacitated and is unable to function without supervision  as a result of physical impairment. Although these can be unpleasant situations for families, New York has provisions to provide care for those who can no longer care for themselves. One of these provisions is Article 81 of New York’s Mental Hygiene law, otherwise known as Article 81 Guardianship, which authorizes a court to appoint a guardian to manage the personal needs and/or finances of a person that cannot handle them on their own. The process of petitioning for guardianship is relatively swift and the powers of a guardian depend on the condition of the incapacitated person. However, all decisions must be rendered by a judge and approved by the court. During the petition process for guardianship, having an experienced guardianship attorney will help alleviate the burden placed on any family and ensure that guardianship hearings end favorably for the petitioning parties and all necessary powers are placed in the hands of a trusted guardian.

Article 81 Guardianship of an Incapacitated Adult

When Does Article 81 Go Into Effect? 

Article 81 Guardianship is an authorization given by a court to a guardian to manage the personal and/or financial matters for a person that has been deemed by the court as incapacitated. Capacity refers to the ability for an individual to make decisions for themselves Each Article 81 Guardianship case is different because they involve different levels of incapacity and different powers allocated to each guardian. In an article 81 case, incapacity refers to common mental disabilities such as dementia, Alzheimer's, and physical impairments. The moment that an individual is proven to be mentally disabled, they are no longer legally eligible to sign any estate planning documents. Therefore, it is crucial that a healthcare proxy and power of attorney are signed beforehand in a right state of mind.

Some guardians might be given the authority to pay bills for an incapacitated person while others are given the authority to prevent self-neglect since the individual is unable to provide adequate medical and hygienic care for themselves. Other guardians might be given the authority to prevent financial abuse because elderly financial exploitation is an ever-present and fast-growing danger, or physical abuse, whether by family members, acquaintances, or those providing care. Guardians might also be authorized to engage in Medicaid and estate tax planning. In any case, having an experienced elder planning lawyer is important so that all powers can be assigned to trusted guardians and then enforced properly.

The Process of Petitioning for Article 81 Guardianship

Petitioning for Article 81 Guardianship is a serious matter and thereby has a dedicated and intricate process. In order to obtain Article 81 guardianship, a petitioner must file a case with the Supreme Court or county court where the incapacitated person lives. At the beginning of each Article 81 case, the person on whom’s behalf the petition is being filed is referred to as an “alleged incapacitated person” because their inability to care for themselves is, at the point, only an allegation. To begin an Article 81 case, the petitioner must complete four steps:

1. Fill out the following forms:

  • A petition: A written order asking the court to start a case.
  • An order to show cause: A written request asking the court to rapidly open a case which will also be used to inform the alleged incapacitated person that an Article 81 application has been filed in court and lists the powers the petitioner believes the guardian should have over alleged incapacitated person, among other things.
  • A request for judicial intervention: A request for a judge to be assigned to the case.

2. File a guardianship petition.

3. Pay a filing and index number fee.

4. Serve legal papers to all people involved in the guardianship case, including the alleged incapacitated person, within a time frame set by the court.

Once the Article 81 case is filed by the petitioner, a hearing presided over by a judge will occur within 28 days after they sign the order to show cause. The court will appoint an evaluator to speak to the alleged incapacitated person, evaluate evidence, and present a written report. After the written report is presented, a formal hearing takes place where a petitioner presents their case stating why the alleged incapacitated person needs a guardian, testimony is heard, and evidence is considered. At the end of the hearing, the judge will determine whether the alleged incapacitated person is indeed unable to handle their personal or financial matters and whether they appreciate the consequences therein of not being able to handle such matters. They then will attempt to find the least-restrictive remedy to protect the alleged incapacitated person’s independence as much as possible. If the incapacity is sufficient enough that the judge deems guardianship necessary, they will determine the powers allocated to the guardian, whether more than one guardian will be appointed, and the duration of the guardianship. After a guardian is appointed, the petitioner must have an order and judgment form signed by the presiding judge, and then send it, along with a notice of entry, to all those who received a copy of the verified petition. All guardians must complete a six-hour course where the duties of the guardian are explained. 

The Implications of Article 81 Guardianship

As outlined above, petitioning for Article 81 Guardianship is an intricate process which should not be taken lightly. In the event that an alleged incapacitated person has not pursued a health care proxy or power of attorney prior to being diagnosed with a cognitive disability, an Article 81 proceeding is one of the few ways where an individual can obtain agent status over them. It is also important to note that courts can appoint temporary guardians or neutral guardians in the event that petitioners cannot agree on a guardian between themselves. Accordingly, it is crucial to find unanimity on an appropriate guardian and plan for all eventualities, no matter how unpleasant they might be to contemplate. Having frank discussions with aging relatives about the possibility of medical emergencies and incapacities can help to ease tension and ensure that the aged person understands there is a plan in place for their care. Having an experienced elder planning attorney will help in creating the best possible long-term health plan and ensure that guardianship hearings end favorably for the petitioner. To ensure appropriate care for a loved one and begin planning their estate, call the Trust and Estate Planning Law Office at (718) 333-2395.

Article 81 Guardianships

An Article 81 Guardianship is a judicial process before the Supreme Court under New York State Mental Hygiene Law for persons who lack mental ability to implement judgements or whose judgements are insufficient. It is a judicial judgment made in 1993 that an individual is incapable based on clear and compelling evidence. A person may be unable to pay bills or manage their finances but may be competent to make healthcare decisions. In such a scenario, a court may appoint a guardian with solely financial management responsibilities.


Who Can Be Appointed as a Guardian ?

When deciding who should be the guardian, the court usually gives precedence to nominations of the disabled individual, the petitioner, and family members. If family members disagree on who should serve as guardian, the court will usually select an independent guardian, whose name will be drawn from a list kept by the court. Such a person must be 18 years of age or older. 

Furthermore, in order to act as guardian, the individual must be able to secure a bond in an amount determined by the court. A bond is an insurance plan paid for with the incompetent person's assets that protects the incapacitated person from theft or other misbehavior by the guardian. 

What is Guardianship Over a Person? 

Guardianship over the Person empowers a guardian to make all daily choices for the individual, including where the individual will reside, who will provide personal care and support, and medical decisions.

What is Guardianship Over Property? 

Guardianship over Property empowers the guardian to make property choices for the individual. The guardian's power will be determined by the individual's capacity and the size of their possessions.

The Duties and Responsibilities of a Guardian

The following are the general duties of an Article 81 guardian: 

  1. The guardian shall exercise only those powers permitted by the court order
  2. A guardian must exercise the utmost care and skill when acting for the benefit of the AIP
  3. A guardian must demonstrate the utmost trust, devotion, and fidelity to the AIP
  4. A guardian must file initial and final reports

A person who desires to serve as a guardian must first pass a six-hour training that teaches the guardian's responsibilities. The following are some of the more significant tasks. Within 90 days of being appointed as guardian, the guardian must file his or her first report. The initial report generally includes a brief overview of the incapacitated person's condition as well as a list of the incapacitated person's assets.

The guardian must produce an annual report with the court by May 31 of each year, including all revenue and disbursements for the preceding calendar year. At the end of the guardianship, the guardian must produce a final report that outlines all of the guardian's activities for the duration of the guardianship. At least four times each year, a guardian must also visit the disabled individual. 

The Process in Which a Guardianship is Appointed

Filing an Order to Show Cause and Petition in the Supreme Court and paying a fee to get an Index number initiates this sort of action. When a petition is filed with the court, the court will usually appoint what is known as a court evaluator. The court evaluator's role is to conduct an investigation and give the court a report on the contents and circumstances of the case. Normally, the court evaluator will give a review on whether or not a guardian is required. The court may also appoint a lawyer to represent the disabled individual in specific situations. When the petition is filed, the court also sets a hearing date and requires that close family members be notified of the petition's filing. The petitioner must show the court with clear and compelling proof that the disabled person is incapable of handling certain areas of their personal and/or financial affairs during the hearing. At the hearing, the court evaluator provides its decision.

How Long Does a Guardianship Last?

A guardian appointed under Article 81 stays in office until any of the following events occurs:

  1. he or she is removed as guardian for failure to obey with any court order, or for improper conduct, or for any other reason that the court deems just
  2. the AIP has gained the ability to perform some or all of the personal needs and/or property management functions that the guardian was authorized to perform
  3. the AIP passes away

Do I Need an Attorney?

​​Yes. The legislation requires that certain standards be observed, such as the form of the papers, service of process, notifications, and so on. You will need an attorney to correctly write paperwork for this procedure in order to guarantee that the regulations are followed.

You can speak with an estate planning professional at the Law Office of Inna Fershyten who concentrates in guardianship to help you file for guardianship for your loved one. Please contact us at (718) 333-2395.