Plenary Guardian

A plenary guardian is a legal guardian who is granted full authority and decision-making power over the personal and financial matters of another person because they have been determined to be incapacitated or unable to make important decisions on their own.

The role of a plenary guardian is to ensure the well-being, safety, and proper care of the incapacitated person, known as a Ward.

After a death, plenary guardianship most often applies to minor children who have lost a legal guardian, but the concept can also apply to adults who are deemed incapable of making decisions for themselves due to mental or physical incapacities.

Key points about plenary guardianship include:

Full Authority: A plenary guardian is granted comprehensive and broad authority to make decisions on behalf of the ward. This authority typically covers both personal matters (such as healthcare, housing, and daily living activities) and financial matters (such as managing assets, paying bills, and making financial transactions).

Incapacitation Determination: Plenary guardianship is usually established through a legal process that involves demonstrating the ward's incapacity or inability to make decisions due to mental or physical limitations. This determination is made by a court based on medical assessments and other relevant evidence.

Court Oversight: Plenary guardianships are established and supervised by court to ensure that the guardian acts in the Best Interests of the ward. The process of establishing plenary guardianship typically involves a legal proceeding in Probate Court, Family Court, or Surrogates Court (also known as Orphan's Court). The court's oversight aims to prevent abuse, neglect, or misuse of the guardian's authority.

Guardian's Responsibilities: The plenary guardian has a Fiduciary duty to act in the ward's best interests and to make decisions that promote the ward's well-being and quality of life. The guardian may need to provide regular reports to the court about the ward's condition and the decisions made.

Duration: Plenary guardianships can be temporary or permanent, depending on the circumstances. If the ward's condition improves and they regain the ability to make decisions, the guardianship may be terminated.

Alternatives: Before granting plenary guardianship, courts often explore less restrictive alternatives, such as limited Guardianship, where the guardian's authority is restricted to specific areas of decision-making.

Advocacy for the Ward: A plenary guardian acts as an advocate for the ward, ensuring that their rights and interests are protected and that they receive the necessary care and support.

Though similar in concept, a plenary guardian differs from an Attorney-in-Fact.

Whereas plenary guardianship is exclusively established by a court, Attorneys-in-Fact chosen by another person by drafting a Power of Attorney document, which may not require court oversight.

While both types of roles involve decision-making for others, they differ in their legal process, oversight, authority, and purpose.

Regardless the type of guardianship, it's important to consult with a Family Law Attorney, Elder Law Attorney, or Estate Attorney who specialize in both guardianship and Probate if there are questions or concerns about these processes.