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When Is It Appropriate to End a Guardianship for an Adult with Developmental Disabilities?


In New York, a guardianship may be established for a developmentally disabled person who reaches adulthood. A parent commonly seeks appointment as guardian, which allows them to continue managing the person and property of their child into adulthood. At the same time, however, the child does retain certain basic legal rights, including the ability to ask a court to end the guardianship.

As a Dutchess County Surrogate’s Court judge explained in a recent decision, Matter of Robert C.B., a guardianship should only continue if it is the “least restrictive” alternative available to ensure the “best interest of the ward,” i.e., the person subject to the guardianship. To that end, the surrogate said, a court has the “implied power, and the inherent discretion, to tailor the guardianship to the ward’s needs.” (It should be noted other surrogates reject this implied authority, favoring an “all-or-nothing” approach to guardianships.)

Surrogate Favors “Tailored Approach,” Partially Ends Dutchess County Guardianship

In the Dutchess County case, the surrogate determined that an adult ward no longer required a guardianship to manage his personal affairs–but he still required one to manage his property and finances.

To give some additional background on the case, the ward is 23 years old. After his parents died, the ward spent most of his teenage years in foster care. The ward was also diagnosed as a person on the autism spectrum.

When the ward reached adulthood in 2015, his uncle successfully petitioned the Surrogate’s Court for appointment as guardian. In January 2019, the ward, acting through counsel, moved to dissolve the guardianship. Alternatively, the ward asked the court to appoint a new guardian, alleging the uncle was failing to act in the ward’s best interest.

As noted above, the Surrogate’s Court ultimately decided to partially dissolve the guardianship. The surrogate found the ward was now “capable of managing his personal affairs.” Indeed, the court noted the ward managed to successfully complete high school and was working two jobs without incident.

At the same time, the surrogate believed a property guardianship was still necessary. While the ward was intelligent, the surrogate said he only had a “superficial” understanding of his own finances. More precisely, the ward “lacks the capacity to budget his money or to manage his property without assistance.” For example, the ward previously purchased a car “that he could not afford on predatory purchase and finance terms,” and then tried to hide the purchase from his guardian.

In the long term, the surrogate said there should come a point where a property guardian is no longer necessary. But that point would only come when the ward establishes an appropriate support network to help him make better financial decisions.

Speak with a New York Guardianship Attorney Today

A guardianship should always be a last resort. Nobody wants to take away the independence or decision-making ability of a child or other adult family member. But there are situations where such supervision is necessary and appropriate. If you need legal advice or representation from a Westchester County guardianship lawyer, contact Meyer & Spencer, PC, today to schedule a consultation.




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