Learn About the Law
Get help with your legal needs
FindLaw’s Learn About the Law features thousands of informational articles to help you understand your options. And if you’re ready to hire an attorney, find one in your area who can help.
IN RE: the Application of Elimelech GREENFIELD, Administrator of Hilaire Rehabilitation and Nursing, Petitioner, Pursuant to Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law for the Appointment of a Guardian of the Person and Property of D.C., An Alleged Incapacitated Person.
This matter was commenced by petitioner Elimelech Greenfield, Administrator of Hilaire Rehabilitation and Nursing (“Hilaire” or “Petitioner”) by Order to Show Cause, dated November 24, 2021, seeking an Order pursuant to Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (“MHL”) for the appointment of a guardian for both the person and property of the alleged incapacitated person D.C. (“D.C.” or “AIP”). Upon signing the Order to Show Cause, the Court appointed Mental Hygiene Legal Service as counsel for the AIP.
A hearing on the merits was conducted on February 28, 2022. The AIP is sixty-three (63) years-old and has been residing at Hilaire since in or about July 2020. He suffers from schizophrenia, dementia and an altered mental status, and requires assistance with daily life activities. The testimony further demonstrated that the AIP suffers from additional cognitive deficiencies, including memory loss, and is unable to either make medical decisions on his own behalf or manage his finances. It was uncontroverted that at Hilaire the AIP's day-to-day care and personal needs are being adequately met by Hilaire in concert with Do.C., the daughter of the AIP, who is making personal decisions on behalf of the AIP pursuant to the Family Health Care Decisions Act (“FHCDA”).
During the hearing, Do.C. introduced a durable general power of attorney (“POA”), executed by the AIP on June 11, 2020 (Exhibit 2). The POA appoints Do.C. to act as her father's attorney-in-fact.
At the conclusion of the testimony, the Court granted Petitioner's request to keep the hearing open to the extent that counsel may explore any collateral issues pertaining to the POA. Counsel was further permitted an opportunity to submit additional information for the Court's consideration on or before March 11, 2022. To date, neither counsel for the Petitioner nor the AIP has submitted additional documentation or requested leave to elicit additional testimony regarding the POA or any other matter related to the Petition. By e-mail dated March 24, 2022, counsel for the AIP requested that the hearing be closed.
In order to prevail on its application for the appointment of a personal needs guardian or a property management guardian, the Petitioner must satisfy a two-pronged standard (see MHL § 81.02[a]; Matter of Aurelia S., 186 A.D.3d 715, at 716-17, 127 N.Y.S.3d 301, 302 (2d Dep't 2020); Matter of Linda H.A., 174 A.D.3d 704, 102 N.Y.S.3d 685 (2d Dep't 2019); Matter of Agam S.B.-L, 169 A.D.3d 1028, 1030, 93 N.Y.S.3d 415 (2d Dep't 2019)). Initially, the Court must make a determination whether “the appointment is necessary to provide for the personal needs of [the AIP], including food, clothing, shelter, health care, or safety and/or to manage the property and financial affairs of [the AIP]” (MHL§ 81.02[a][1)]). If the appointment of a guardian is deemed necessary, then the Court must decide whether the AIP “agrees to the appointment, or that the person is incapacitated” (Id. at § 81.02[a]). A finding of incapacity requires “a determination that a person is likely to suffer harm because (1) the person is unable to provide for [his or her] personal needs and/or property management and (2) the person cannot adequately understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of such inability” (Id.at § 81.02[b]; see Matter of Carolyn S., 192 A.D.3d 1114, 141 N.Y.S.3d 358 (2d Dep't 2021); Matter of Carole L., 136 A.D.3d 917, at 918-19, 26 N.Y.S.3d 133 (2d Dep't 2016)).
In reaching its determination, the Court notes that the burden of proof remains with the Petitioner by clear and convincing evidence. “[P]rimary consideration [shall be given] to the functional level and functional limitations of the person” (see MHL§ 81.02[c]). If the Petitioner satisfies its burden, any guardian appointed may only be granted “those powers which are necessary to provide for personal needs and/or property management of the incapacitated person in such a manner as appropriate to the individual and which shall constitute the least restrictive form of intervention” (Id. at § 81.02[a]).
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
Here, the Petitioner established by clear and convincing evidence that the AIP is incapacitated as defined in Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law (see MHL§ 81.02[b]). However, the Court may only appoint a guardian where one (1) or more of the incapacitated person's personal or management needs are not adequately being cared for due to the functional limitations and the incapacitated person's lack of understanding or appreciation for his limitations.
The Court concludes that the appointment of a guardian to protect the personal needs and/or property management of the AIP is not necessary in the instant matter, and, as a result, the application is denied. The evidence failed to demonstrate that the AIP is likely to suffer harm due his functional limitations, his inability to provide for his own personal needs or his lack of capacity to manage his affairs. To the contrary, the AIP's needs are presently being adequately managed by Do.C., the AIP's daughter, pursuant to both the duly executed POA and the FHCDA (see Public Health Law, Article 29-cc (2010)).
Accordingly, the Petitioner is unable to satisfy its burden since the AIP is not likely to suffer harm due to his functional limitations. The Appellate Division, Second Department has held that “[e]ven if all of the elements of incapacity are present, a guardian should be appointed only as a last resort and should not be imposed if available resources or other alternatives will adequately protect the person” (Matter of Maher, 207 A.D.2d 133, at 140, 621 N.Y.S.2d 617 (2d Dep't 1994)). Moreover, where prior to becoming incapacitated, the AIP executes advanced directives, the Court will not appoint a guardian because the AIP “effectuated a plan for the management of his affairs which obviate[s] the need for a guardian” (Id.; Matter of Crump, 230 A.D.2d 850, 646 N.Y.S.2d 825 (2d Dep't 1996); Matter of O'Hear, 219 A.D.2d 720, 631 N.Y.S.2d 743 (2d Dep't 1995) (guardian not necessary for an incapacitated person who had appointed adult son power of attorney and executed living will and health care proxy)).
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the appointment of a guardian is not necessary to care for the personal needs or property management of the AIP. The evidence adduces that the AIP previously executed a POA that is valid and enforceable, and the AIP's daughter is further making medical decisions on behalf of the AIP which the Petitioner has indicated it will continue to honor. The Court finds persuasive and adopts the reasoning in the Matter of Stephanie Z. where the Chemung County Supreme Court denied the application and dismissed the Article 81 Petition because, similar to the instant matter, the AIP had “sufficient resources in place to address [his] limitations, through [his] placement at the Facility, the existing power of attorney and the Family Health Care Decisions Act” (see 150 N.Y.S.3d 569, 2021 WL 3236641 (Chemung Cnty. Sup. Ct. 2021)).
In rendering the herein decision, the Court affords tremendous weight to the testimony of the court evaluator who deviated from his written recommendations after the POA was introduced for the first time at the hearing and is of the opinion that the appointment of a guardian is unnecessary. Accordingly, it is hereby,
ORDERED that the application for the appointment of a guardian for the AIP is DENIED; and it is hereby further
ORDERED that the Petition is DISMISSED.
Stephen L. Ukeiley, J.
Response sent, thank you
A free source of state and federal court opinions, state laws, and the United States Code. For more information about the legal concepts addressed by these cases and statutes visit FindLaw's Learn About the Law.
Docket No: Index No. 621797/21
Decided: March 31, 2022
Court: Supreme Court, Suffolk County, New York.
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)
FindLaw for Legal Professionals
Search our directory by legal issue
Enter information in one or both fields (Required)