What is the Role of a Guardian of an Incapacitated Person Under New Jersey law?

In New Jersey the role of a guardian of an incapacitated person's estate is largely statutory. In re Guardianship of A.D.L., 208 N.J. Super. 618, 623 (App. Div. 1986). N.J.S.A. 3B:12-36 to -64 prescribe a guardian's powers to manage an incapacitated person's estate. See In re Keri, 181 N.J. 50, 57 (2004). Under this statutory scheme, a guardian of an incapacitated person may expend or distribute so much or all of the income or principal of his ward for the support, maintenance, education, general use and benefit of the ward . . . , in the manner, at the time or times and to the extent that the guardian, in an exercise of a reasonable discretion, deems suitable and proper, taking into account the requirements of the "Prudent Investor Act[.]"

[N.J.S.A. 3B:12-43 (emphasis added).]

A guardian must also "take reasonable care of the ward's clothing, furniture, vehicles and other personal effects and, where appropriate, sell or dispose of such effects to meet current needs of the ward[.]" N.J.S.A. 3B:12-57(f)(5). Moreover, under the Prudent Investor Act, N.J.S.A. 3B:20-11.3(a), a guardian has a duty to exercise reasonable care, skill, and caution, when investing or managing a trust or estate's assets. In sum, when reviewing the guardian's management of the estate of an incapacitated person, the court must determine whether the actions were in "the best interest of the ward[.]" In re Keri, supra, 181 N.J. at 57 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

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