Apr 9, 2020

Guardianships During the Covid-19 Crisis

By Meredith L. Grocott, Esq.

On April 8, 2020, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an Order relaxing certain requirements for guardianship actions. This is especially salient as the health crisis has adversely impacted the most vulnerable among the population.

A guardianship action must be supported by two physician certifications (or, alternatively, one physician and one psychologist) who “have made personal examinations of the alleged incapacitated person” within 30 days of the filing. Recognizing the difficulty of effectuating personal examinations during the pandemic, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s recent Order expressly allows the examinations by the certifying medical professionals to have been performed by video or phone. Additionally, the Order permits certifications from physicians who would otherwise have been disqualified from doing so because of their affiliation with the institution in which the alleged incapacitated person resides. Without this relaxation, those physicians who are professionally employed by the facility as a resident physician or psychologist or who are financially interested in the facility would have been disqualified from providing certifications.

The April 8, 2020 Order also relaxes other requirements that otherwise would have necessitated personal interaction, such as allowing service of the action upon the alleged incapacitated person by certified mail or by reading aloud the complaint instead of personally serving the individual Likewise, the court appointed attorney and any guardian ad litem are permitted to conduct interviews by video or phone.

Importantly, the recent Order allows that any resulting judgments for guardianships entered during the pandemic may provide that the person appointed as guardian may begin to act immediately if qualification cannot be timely completed. Ordinarily, in order to have the authority to act in the fiduciary capacity, an individual appointed as guardian would have to qualify with the appropriate county Surrogate’s Office and many of those offices require that qualification to be in person.

Schenck Price attorneys remain available to assist anyone in applying for guardianship.

DISCLAIMER: This Alert is designed to keep you aware of recent developments in the law. It is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after the attorney understands the facts of a particular matter and the goals of the client.