1. What is a guardian?

A guardian is a person who has been appointed by the court to conduct the general care and control of another person. When a guardian is required for a minor (under age eighteen), the guardian is appointed by the Surrogate’s Court. When a guardian is needed for someone age 18 or older, the guardian is appointed by Superior Court.

2. Guardianship on Behalf of a Minor

There are several reasons for the appointment of a guardian on behalf of a minor (under age 18). Most commonly, it occurs when a minor, who is a Morris County resident, is expected to receive assets — usually money, but may include stocks, bonds or real estate — in amounts greater than $5,000 per year.

A more common occurrence is a monetary settlement resulting from an accident involving a minor. The Superior Court of New Jersey enters a judgment to formalize that settlement. The settlement funds are then placed in custodial care of the Morris County Surrogate’s Court, and specifically in the Surrogate’s Intermingled Account.

3. Adult Guardianships

Under N.J. Court Rule 1:34-2, the Morris County Surrogate acts as Deputy Clerk of Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part for the filing of the appropriate pleadings.

Adults are declared incapacitated in Superior Court by way of an Order to Show Cause, Verified Complaint and certain required affidavits. The Court will appoint an independent attorney to represent the alleged incapacitated person. A report is generated and a plenary hearing may be required.

Upon adjudication, the Surrogate qualifies the court-appointed Guardian(s) and issues the official letters of Guardianship.

The Surrogate’s Court also will be responsible for the soon-to-be-implemented State Guardianship Monitoring Program. Under this program, volunteers will review the annual reports filed by Guardians, as well as in some cases, the ward’s residence.