Ideally, you should always be able to trust a guardian to look after their ward and always put their best interests first. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and you may need to challenge a guardianship for the good of the ward’s well-being. Here are five things you should know if you are thinking about challenging a guardianship:
- You need to have a reason to challenge a guardianship
- You cannot contest a guardianship without a rationale behind the challenge. This means you need to be able to show why exactly the current guardian must be removed or a proposed guardian should not be accepted. That normally means showing some kind of misconduct on the part of the guardian or proposed guardian. Another alternative is presenting medical evidence that the ward does not actually need a guardian anymore and has returned to capacity.
- Look for signs of abuse or neglect
- A good sign that a guardianship may need to be challenged is that the ward is showing signs of neglect or abuse. This can come in the form of physical problems, such as unexplained injuries or weight loss, or from psychological issues such as changes in a ward’s behavior or mood. It may also become apparent if a ward is missing important appointments or failing to get necessary medical care, which a guardian is responsible for.
- Check a ward’s finances
- Not all abuse by a guardian is physical or psychological in nature. Instead, some guardians use their authority over their ward to help themselves to their money or assets, personally enriching themselves at their ward’s expense. A guardian is required to file annual reports with the Surrogate and must disclose changes of assets. If a guardian is becoming inexplicably richer, or if there are expenses to a ward’s account that cannot be explained, it may be time to challenge the guardianship.
- Question if they really need a guardian
- Sometimes, the reason to challenge a guardianship is because the ward no longer requires a guardian. This can be the case if a ward was assigned a guardian because they were a minor, and have since aged out and become a full-grown adult without ongoing and incapacitating mental or physical impairments. More often, though, it can be an issue if someone was assigned a guardian due to an illness or injury that they have since recovered from. If someone no longer needs a guardian because they are once again capable of managing their own affairs, that is a good reason to challenge the guardianship.
- Consider how you will obtain evidence to support your claims
- Whatever the rationale you have for challenging a guardianship, you need to consider the types of evidence you will need to back up your claims. This can include witness testimony, medical records, financial records and physical evidence in cases of abuse and neglect. A successful challenge to a guardianship requires more than assumptions and conjecture.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, and Sweeney understand that the aging population has specific and diverse needs. The firm helps seniors and their families by handling all aspects of elder law including guardianships, end of life planning, asset preservation, Medicaid planning, and trusts and estates issues. If you need to consult on elder law issues, call The Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney at (973) 256-0456 or fill out our contact form for a consultation.