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When an individual has been declared incapacitated by the Court, and family members are unable to serve, PLAN|NJ staff can serve as Legal Guardian. In this role, we prioritize supported, surrogate decision-making on their behalf and promote choices, self-determination, dignity, and respect. We visit the individuals under guardianship a minimum of once monthly to assess living arrangements, monitor employment, review their day centers, and ensure proper engagement with physicians, state and federal agencies, and other service providers.

We advocate to resolve concerns and address needs, and serve as their emergency contact. We seek to promote  quality of life and advocate for the individual in all areas of life including health, housing, education, employment, recreation and community living. We protect the individual and their personal property, and protect them from fraud or undue influence.

Frequently Asked Questions: Guardianship

“Am I taking away my loved one’s independence by naming a Guardian for them?”

Not necessarily.  Guardianship is about protecting your loved one.  The role of the Guardian is to foster as much independence in your loved one as possible by encouraging their participation in decision-making. Limited guardianship can allow the individual rights while protecting them in other areas where surrogate decision-making is needed. The NJ Guardianship statute encourages guardians to assist individuals to participate in the decision-making process. Best practice Guardianship standards recommend the promotion of self-determination and informed consent for individuals under Guardianship.


“When do I file for guardianship? What happens during the gap between my child’s 18th birthday and the finalization of guardianship?”

You cannot apply for Guardianship until your child’s 18th birthday. In the rare instance that Guardianship is required during the gap, such as a medical emergency, you can file to obtain emergency temporary Guardianship.


“If my spouse and I are divorced and have joint custody, do we automatically become co-Guardians?”

Joint custody does not predetermine co-Guardianship.  Many other issues come into determination of Guardianship, including preference of the individual. The court appointed attorney, and in some cases a Guardian ad litem, will report to the court as to the preferences and best interests of the alleged incapacitated person.


“How do I choose a Successor Guardian?”

Always select someone who is capable and willing, who knows your child well and will do what is best for your child.  You do not need to designate the same person in the different Guardianship roles; you can have a Guardian of Person who is different from the Guardian of Estate (Property), based on each individual’s areas of strength.  Always designate multiple successors, should some be unable or unavailable to serve when the time comes.  Whenever possible, designate individuals who are younger or closer in age to your child. If you run out of family members to serve in the Guardianship roles, consider an agency like PLAN|NJ.


“Do I need a lawyer to obtain guardianship?”

No.  You can obtain “pro se” Guardianship of the Person and Estate for an individual eligible for DDD services through your local surrogate’s office.  All of the forms necessary, which are the same forms that attorneys use, are available online here:

our story

"A Talk With Families"

The stories of three families with loved ones who have disabilities and who use PLAN|NJ's trust administration and care coordination services are told through interviews conducted in their homes by Executive Director Ellen Nalven.


Planned Lifetime Assistance Network of New Jersey PLAN|NJ
PO Box 547
Somerville, NJ 08876-0547
908-575-8300 (Phone)
908-927-9010 (Fax)


Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities
Association of People Supporting Employment First
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Guardianship Association
National PLAN Alliance


We work hard to provide relevant and current information. If you feel something is missing or needs to be corrected, please contact us via our contact form HERE.

PLAN | NJ - Lifetime Advocacy for People with Differing Abilities



PLAN|NJ’s mission is to help families of individuals with disabilities answer all of the challenging questions embedded within the larger one:

“Who will care for my loved one when I am gone?”

We coordinate the supports needed by individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, and challenges with mental health, including people with autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, severe mental illness and more.

Spanish Translation

If you speak Spanish and would like more information or need to schedule a consultation, please contact:

Nancy Dilliplane, Director of Trust Services
Bilingual assistance: 908-575-8300 ext 15