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Guardianship Matters


Why Guardianship Matters to You

In New Jersey, the age of majority is 18. This means that by this time an individual is presumed capable of making decisions as well as taking legal responsibility for those decisions. This law does not change if a child has a developmental disability. Parents do not automatically remain their child’s natural guardian. For some adults who are incapable of making decisions, guardianship may be an avenue for parents, family members, or caregiver to ensure/determine their best interest. Obtaining guardianship is a extensive process and should not be taken lightly. Guardianship entails making decisions about where a person lives, what care and supervision is required, how to interact with the medical community and if the person is deemed incapable of making decisions, they will lose rights to vote, to drive, and to marry. Only a judge can decide a person’s abilities and incapacitates and considers the persons needs before appointing a guardian. An assessment is done on the individual to measure their capacity for self-determination or skills in make decisions for themselves.

There are then varying degrees of guardianship:

Full Guardianship

States that the individual cannot make decision on their own behalf. This allows for the Guardian to make all legal, financial, personal, and medical decisions for the individual.

Limited Guardianship

States that the individual may need some help in certain areas. This allows for the Guardian to help only in the areas determined by the court.


States that the individual is not incapable of making decisions however, requires assistance in financial responsibilities. If an individual is capable of understanding what they are signing, there are options of assistance that does not require a judge. Surrogate a substitute or person to carry out a certain duty or role instead of the individual.

Representative Payee

Allows for an individual or organization to be appointed to manage the Social Security and SSI for someone who cannot manage his or her money. A payee must use the benefits to pay for the current and foreseeable needs of the beneficiary and properly save any benefits not needed to meet current needs. Helpful Link:

Dual Power of Attorney

Allows for an individual to choose a surrogate to make financial and legal decisions as well as access the persons records.

Medical Power of Attorney

Allows for an individual to choose a surrogate to make medical decisions and to access records.

Advanced Directive/ Living Will

This allows for the individual to choose a surrogate to make decisions on what medical/mental health treatments a person would accept or refuse if or when unable to communicate their choice.

Helpful Links:

The Arc of New Jersey
Community Access Unlimited