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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?

Not necessarily.  Guardianship is about protecting your loved one while promoting autonomy.  The role of the Guardian is to foster as much independence and self-determination as possible by encouraging participation in decision-making.


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 eighteenth 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 interest 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.


How do co-guardians differ from successor guardians?
After the appointment of a guardian or co-guardians, additional guardians can be added later, but an application must be made to the court to request the addition. A guardian may designate a successor guardian in his or her will, but the appointment of a successor guardian must also be made by the court. The advantage of adding a co-guardian is the ability of the guardian to train the co-guardian while the guardian is still alive. The disadvantage is that the guardian must make decisions together with the co-guardian. When co-guardians are appointed by a judge and one later dies, court intervention is not required to remove the co-guardian; rather, a letter to the surrogate court notifying of the death of the co-guardian is all that is required in most cases.


What is a standby guardian?
A standby guardian is an individual appointed by a parent temporarily for the benefit of his or her child, in the event that the parent dies, becomes incapacitated or is unable to care for the child while still alive. The standby guardian may have concurrent decision-making authority with the disabled parent, as opposed to having the sole responsibility. The standby guardian is temporary until a permanent guardian is appointed.


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 at the link below:

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
Alliance for Pooled Trusts
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Guardianship Association
National PLAN Alliance
Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey


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 Disabilities



PLAN|NJ’s mission is to help family members of people with disabilities answer the question:

“Who will care for my loved one when I'm 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

Si usted habla español y quisiera mas información sobre nuestros servicios o si desea una consulta con PLAN\NJ, por favor comuníquese con
Nancy Dilliplane, Director of Trust Services, para asistencia bilingüe:  908-575-8300, extensión 15