Observations by Rachel Sanks

NYS Article 81 | The Road to Guardianship

In Caregiving on February 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm
Seal of New York.

Seal of New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obligatory Disclaimer:

Let’s start here, I’m not a lawyer. What I’m going to be talking about in this blog post involves legal concepts of Guardianship that I’ve begun to familiarize myself with as a lay person. The information that I’ve found is specific to New York State Law. If you have questions, I encourage you to do some research and consult an actual lawyer for advice.

Okay, now that that bit of business is out of the way – let’s talk. Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes, and depending on the person being cared for there is a range of needs that a person who requires care might have. Some of these are very basic things like reminders, and some can be very complex.

Because of the particular situation in my household, it seems like filing an Article 81 – Petition for Guardianship of my mother seems to be the best long term choice for my family. To be completely honest, I have stressed about filing this thing for over a year, it means being legally and financially responsible for my mother – including filing an annual accounting of her income. It also means officially declaring that my mother is not capable of caring for herself – which carries with it its own boatload of emotional meaning.

Filing for guardianship is a Big Deal – note the capital ‘b’ and ‘d’. There are a lot of other steps a caregiver can take which are both easier and less permanent:

  • Health Care Proxy – This form is available online and at most hospitals, basically it designates another person to be responsible for making health care decisions.
  • Power of Attorney – While you can go to lawyer to get one of these made for you, there are a lot of  pre-made Power of Attorney forms you can purchase online from places like Bloomberg which will also work.
  • Representative Payee  – If you are caring for someone who cannot manage for themselves and they are receiving some kind of Social Security Pension, you can have yourself declared a “Representative Payee” and have the money sent to you in order to manage their care.

In New York, there are these laws called the “Mental Health Hygiene Laws” and the basic idea seems to be allowing the incapacitated person as much freedom as their capability can allow. So before you start filing for Guardianship, make sure you try these easier steps first and see if you can manage the situation using these tools before taking the plunge.

Should you find that guardianship is something that would ultimately need,  there are certain factors that make the process a lot easier. For instance, can the person you are caring for can attend court and agree to designate you their guardian? – If so, than your petition is likely to go a lot smoother. Can you afford to go to an Elder care attorney? – If so, it is likely to save you a great deal of time and research.

However, if you don’t have a barrel of cash hidden away for a rainy day — you can still call your local courthouse and ask for help and assistance. In New York County, they have a special phone number set up specifically for people who are filing for guardianship that have questions. More and More courts are trying to make it easier for non-lawyers to avail themselves of the right forms and paperwork to complete these kinds of needed steps. Use the internet and find out what resources are available to you — you might be surprised at what you find.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck.

– RachelSanks

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