The general rule (actually, it’s the law) is that a person who seeks to become a guardian for someone must have legal standing, meaning some reasonably close family relationship.
There is a long line of case law in incompetency proceedings denying status to a “mere stranger”, i.e., one who is not a relative. A “stranger” does not have a legal or equitable interest in a guardianship case.
In one NJ case, the court was called upon to consider the issue of standing, and did so before deciding if the alleged incapacitated person was in fact incompetent. In this case, a person age 55 had been seriously injured in an automobile accident and was hospitalized for many months, eventually residing in a convalescent home. The plaintiff who sought guardianship had been a childhood friend but had no other relationship with her. The alleged incapacitated person was not “in any financial or legal manger obligated to plaintiff”. The alleged incapacitated person had earlier executed a Power of Attorney to the plaintiff but revoked the Power of Attorney approximately two years later, and made a new Power of Attorney in favor of her attorney.
The result in this case was that plaintiff was not a proper party to initiate a determination of competency and the complaint was dismissed.
In considering the issue of standing, the court reviewed a line of cases which led to the standing requirements now found in New Jersey Court 4. 4:86-2(a), i.e., that the plaintiff establish his or her relationship to the alleged incapacitated person, as well as the plaintiff’s interest in the action.
Near the end of the opinion, the court also considered the public policy supporting the standing requirements.
To discuss your NJ guardianship matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County NJ Guardianship Attorney