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  • Mark J. Keller, Esq

Understanding Different Types of Legal Guardianship in New York


Guardianship in New York is a legal process where a court appoints an individual or entity to make decisions for another person who is unable to manage their affairs. This can involve children, adults with developmental disabilities, or incapacitated adults. In New York, guardianships are primarily governed by Article 17-A of the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act and Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law.

Article 17-A Guardianship


Article 17-A guardianship is designed for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. This type of guardianship is established through the Surrogate's Court and is intended to provide comprehensive decision-making support for the ward. The disabilities covered under this article include conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and severe neurological impairments.

Scope of Authority

The guardian appointed under Article 17-A has broad authority to make decisions regarding both personal and financial matters. This includes healthcare, living arrangements, education, and managing financial assets. The intent is to ensure that individuals who cannot make informed decisions receive the necessary support and protection.

Article 81 Guardianship


Article 81 guardianship is intended for adults who are incapacitated due to age, illness, or disability and cannot manage their personal or financial affairs. This type of guardianship is more flexible and tailored to the specific needs of the incapacitated person. The guardianship is established through the Supreme Court or County Court.

Tailored Authority

Under Article 81, the court grants the guardian only the powers necessary to meet the specific needs of the incapacitated person. This can include managing finances, paying bills, making medical decisions, and arranging for personal care. The goal is to preserve as much of the individual’s independence as possible while providing necessary support.

Guardianship of a Child


Guardianship of a child is typically established when the child's parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. This guardianship can involve making decisions about the child's education, healthcare, and overall welfare. It can be granted through either the Surrogate's Court or Family Court.


The guardian of a child has the authority to make decisions that a parent would typically make. This includes decisions about the child's day-to-day life and long-term welfare. If the guardianship also includes the child's property, the guardian must manage the child's financial assets and report to the court annually.

Guardianship of the Person

Guardianship of the person involves making decisions related to the personal care and well-being of the ward. This includes decisions about medical care, living arrangements, nutrition, and personal safety. The guardian is responsible for ensuring that the ward's personal needs are met, providing a stable and supportive environment.

Guardianship of the Property

Guardianship of the property grants the guardian authority over the ward's financial affairs. This includes managing income, paying bills, handling investments, and protecting assets. The guardian must maintain detailed records of all financial transactions and provide annual reports to the court to ensure transparency and accountability.

Guardian ad Litem

Guardian ad litem is a temporary guardian appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a person during legal proceedings. This role is often used in cases involving minors, incapacitated adults, or individuals who are otherwise unable to represent themselves. The guardian ad litem conducts investigations, interviews relevant parties, and provides the court with recommendations to help make informed decisions.

Benefits of Legal Guardianship

Legal guardianship ensures that individuals who cannot manage their affairs due to age, disability, or incapacity receive the necessary care and support. It provides a structured framework for decision-making, ensuring that the ward's best interests are prioritized. Guardianship can protect against financial abuse and ensure that personal and medical decisions are made appropriately​.

Potential Concerns

One of the main concerns with guardianship is the potential for abuse or neglect by the appointed guardian. It is crucial that the courts thoroughly vet guardians to prevent any misuse of power. Additionally, the process of establishing guardianship can be complex and time-consuming, requiring careful navigation of legal procedures.

Understanding the different types of guardianship in New York is essential for ensuring that the needs of minors, incapacitated adults, and individuals with developmental disabilities are met appropriately. For assistance with establishing a legal guardianship, contact the Law Office of Mark Keller at 718-297-1890 or use the contact form on our website. Proper legal guidance can help you navigate the complexities of guardianship to protect and support your loved ones.

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