The legal process of obtaining guardianship over elderly parents in New York.

Understanding Guardianship in New York

Guardianship is a legal mechanism designed to protect individuals who are incapable of managing their own affairs. In New York, obtaining guardianship over an elderly parent is a process governed by Article 81 of the New York Mental Hygiene Law. This article sets forth the specific procedures and standards that must be met to appoint a guardian for a person who is determined to be incapacitated.

The Process of Obtaining Guardianship

To initiate the guardianship process, an individual or entity, referred to as the petitioner, must file a petition in the court where the alleged incapacitated person (AIP) resides. The petition must outline the AIP's functional limitations and why they cannot manage their personal and/or financial affairs. The court will then appoint a court evaluator to investigate the circumstances and report back on the AIP's condition and need for a guardian.

Upon receiving the court evaluator's report, a hearing will be held to determine whether the AIP is indeed incapacitated and, if so, what type of guardianship is appropriate. During this hearing, the AIP is entitled to legal representation, and may contest the petition.

Types of Guardianship in New York

New York law recognizes two types of guardianship: guardianship of the person, which pertains to non-financial decision-making, such as health care and living arrangements; and guardianship of property, which involves managing the AIP's financial affairs. In some cases, one individual may be appointed as both.

Case Example: Matter of K.L., 2011

A poignant example is seen in the Matter of K.L., where an elderly mother was found to be unable to manage her affairs due to dementia. The court appointed her son as guardian, ensuring her needs were met while protecting her dignity and autonomy to the extent possible.

Responsibilities of a Guardian

The appointed guardian has numerous responsibilities, including making decisions in the best interest of the AIP, managing their finances responsibly, reporting to the court on the status of guardianship, and respecting the rights and preferences of the AIP whenever feasible.


The process of obtaining guardianship over an elderly parent in New York requires careful navigation through legal procedures and consideration for the well-being and rights of all involved parties. It is an important measure for protecting those who can no longer protect themselves.