Ensuring the long-term care of people with developmental disabilities through Education, Outreach, and Support for Families

Guardianship Services provides education and outreach to families regarding Article 17-A guardianship as well as alternatives to guardianship. Assistance with 17-A guardianship for a family member with a developmental disability who is 18 years or older is available in all five boroughs.

Please contact us at (212) 780-4408 for assistance.

About Article 17-A Guardianship

Guardianship is a legal process by which the Surrogate’s Court, pursuant to Article 17-A of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act, grants a person or agency the legal authority to advocate for an individual with an intellectual and/or developmental disability and their needs. It also allows for the appointment of standby or alternate standby guardians.

17-A guardianship is only appropriate for a person with an intellectual and/or developmental disability who is deemed by two qualified professions to be legally incapable of managing their own affairs, specifically concerning daily living, healthcare, residential, and financial decision-making.

Types of Guardianship

Guardianship of the person and property are two different types of guardianship. You can petition for guardianship of the person, the property, or both.

Responsibilities of the Guardian

Guardianship of the person gives the guardian the authority to continue to help the individual with everyday decisions including health care decisions. This does not require the individual to live with the guardian, but rather the guardian must ensure that the individual is receiving the daily care and necessities that they require.

Guardianship of the property gives the guardian the authority to make decisions for the individual’s money, investments, and savings as directed by the Court. The Court does put certain limitations, as a check and balance, to ensure that the individual’s assets are not manipulated and the individual’s interests are always protected. The guardian of the property must file an annual report with the Court.

What happens when a primary guardian can no longer perform as a guardian?

In the event that the primary guardian, through incapacity, death, resignation, or removal is no longer able to serve as the primary guardian, the designated standby guardian can immediately assume the duties of the guardian. However, within 180 days the standby guardian must file a petition seeking confirmation from the Surrogate’s Court. When the standby guardian is no longer able to serve as guardian, the alternate standby guardian can similarly assume the duties of the guardian.

What if there is no one who can serve as a guardian?

In cases of last resort, NYSARC, Inc. may be available to serve as primary, standby, or alternate standby guardian. In order to have NYSARC, Inc. serve as guardian, you must apply and be approved by both AHRC New York City and NYSARC, Inc. (Applications are available through the Guardianship Program of AHRC New York City.)

Petitioning for guardianship without an attorney

17-A guardianship petitions can be obtained from the Surrogate’s Court website or in the Surrogate’s Court in your county.  After completing the petition documents, they must be filed along with the original birth certificate or certified copy of the individual in need of a guardian and a $20 filing fee. Fingerprinting and court appearance on the return date assigned by the Court may be required. The Surrogate’s Court will schedule a hearing at which the proposed guardian(s) and individual in need of a guardian must appear. Generally, the guardianship process may take 6 months up to a year to complete.

Alternatives to 17-A Guardianship

It is crucial to remember that guardianship may not always be appropriate and there are other alternatives available to ensure that the individual is properly protected and cared for. Alternatives include:

> Supported Decision-Making
> Representative Payee
> Health Care Proxy
> Power of Attorney

Supported Decision-Making is a tool that allows people with disabilities to retain their decision-making capacity by choosing supporters to help them make choices. Additional information is available at SDMNY.org

A Representative Payee is a person, agency, or organization that is designated to help a person with a disability manage funds received from public benefits such as SSI benefits. Additional information is available at SSA.gov

A Health Care Proxy is an agent designated by a person, who has the authority to make decisions regarding medical treatment for a person who is declared by a doctor unable to make their own health care decisions. Health care proxy form available at https://health.ny.gov/publications/1430.pdf

Power of Attorney is a legal instrument that allows a person to act as an individual’s agent but only if the individual consents to granting a Power of Attorney. For an individual to consent they must be able to comprehend the nature and consequences of executing and granting, revoking, amending, and modifying a Power of Attorney. For further information contact your attorney or legal advisor.