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Home » Contested Guardianships » Can the court appoint a loved one’s neighbor as a legal guardian?

Individuals who face temporary or permanent incapacity due to an injury, illness or similar condition are highly vulnerable and exposed to various abuses. Guardians have a crucial role in keeping an adult ward safe from physical abuse, financial abuse and undue influence. Accordingly, courts assign a competent individual as a legal guardian if they establish the ward’s incapacity.

Who can be a legal guardian?

In New Jersey, a person can qualify as a guardian if they have a meaningful relationship with the incapacitated individual. This typically pertains to the ward’s family, such as a spouse, child, parent or relative.

However, the courts do not disregard the possibility of appointing a nonrelated person as a ward’s legal guardian, especially when a case’s unique circumstances warrant that option. Hence, an incapacitated person’s advisor, friend and even neighbor can be a legal guardian as long as they maintain a meaningful relationship with the ward.

The courts have a preference

Though anyone holding a significant relationship with the incapacitated person is part of the pool of choices for a legal guardian, the courts usually prefer family and relatives since there is a presumption that they know their incapacitated loved one’s needs and preferences more than others.

Nonetheless, if evidence proves that the family members are unfit for the role, the courts can appoint the incapacitated individual’s friend, neighbor or another nonrelated person as their guardian instead.

Protecting a loved one’s well-being

In guardianship proceedings, the courts mainly consider the unique circumstances of each case and the ward’s best interests when choosing and appointing a legal guardian.

If you are worried about the competency and conduct of your loved one’s appointed guardian, know you have available legal remedies. Exploring these options with the help of a knowledgeable guardianship attorney can help you ensure your loved one’s protection.