New York Mental Hygiene Law § 81.21 Powers of guardian;  property management




(a) Consistent with the functional limitations of the incapacitated person, that person's understanding and appreciation of the harm that he or she is likely to suffer as the result of the inability to manage property and financial affairs, and that person's personal wishes, preferences, and desires with regard to managing the activities of daily living, and the least restrictive form of intervention, the court may authorize the guardian to exercise those powers necessary and sufficient to manage the property and financial affairs of the incapacitated person;  to provide for the maintenance and support of the incapacitated person, and those persons depending upon the incapacitated person;  to transfer a part of the incapacitated person's assets to or for the benefit of another person on the ground that the incapacitated person would have made the transfer if he or she had the capacity to act.

Transfers made pursuant to this article may be in any form that the incapacitated person could have employed if he or she had the requisite capacity, except in the form of a will or codicil.

Those powers which may be granted include, but are not limited to, the power to:

1. make gifts;

2. provide support for persons dependent upon the incapacitated person for support, whether or not the incapacitated person is legally obligated to provide that support;

3. convey or release contingent and expectant interests in property, including marital property rights and any right of survivorship incidental to joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety;

4. exercise or release powers held by the incapacitated person as trustee, personal representative, guardian for minor, guardian, or donee of a power of appointment;

5. enter into contracts;

6. create revocable or irrevocable trusts of property of the estate which may extend beyond the incapacity or life of the incapacitated person;

7. exercise options of the incapacitated person to purchase securities or other property;

8. exercise rights to elect options and change beneficiaries under insurance and annuity policies and to surrender the policies for their cash value;

9. exercise any right to an elective share in the estate of the incapacitated person's deceased spouse;  

10. renounce or disclaim any interest by testate or intestate succession or by inter vivos transfer consistent with paragraph (d) of section 2-1.11 of the estates, powers and trusts law;

11. authorize access to or release of confidential records;

12. apply for government and private benefits;

13. marshall assets;

14. pay the funeral expenses of the incapacitated person;

15. pay such bills as may be reasonably necessary to maintain the incapacitated person;

16. invest funds of the incapacitated person as permitted by section 11-2.3 of the estates, powers and trusts law;

17. lease the primary residence for up to three years;

18. retain an accountant;

19. pay bills after the death of the incapacitated person provided the authority existed to pay such bills prior to death until a temporary administrator or executor is appointed;  and

20. defend or maintain any judicial action or proceeding to a conclusion until an executor or administrator is appointed.

The guardian may also be granted any power pursuant to this subdivision granted to committees and conservators and guardians by other statutes subject to the limitations, conditions, and responsibilities of the exercise thereof unless the granting of such power is inconsistent with the provisions of this article.

(b) If the petitioner or the guardian seeks the authority to exercise a power which involves the transfer of a part of the incapacitated person's assets to or for the benefit of another person, including the petitioner or guardian, the petition shall include the following information:

1. whether any prior proceeding has at any time been commenced by any person seeking such power with respect to the property of the incapacitated person and, if so, a description of the nature of such application and the disposition made of such application;

2. the amount and nature of the financial obligations of the incapacitated person including funds presently and prospectively required to provide for the incapacitated person's own maintenance, support, and well-being and to provide for other persons dependent upon the incapacitated person for support, whether or not the incapacitated person is legally obligated to provide that support;  a copy of any court order or written agreement setting forth support obligations of the incapacitated person shall be attached to the petition if available to the petitioner or guardian;

3. the property of the incapacitated person that is the subject of the present application;

4. the proposed disposition of such property and the reasons why such disposition should be made;

5. whether the incapacitated person has sufficient capacity to make the proposed disposition;  if the incapacitated person has such capacity, his or her written consent shall be attached to the petition;

6. whether the incapacitated person has previously executed a will or similar instrument and if so, the terms of the most recently executed will together with a statement as to how the terms of the will became known to the petitioner or guardian;  for purposes of this article, the term “will” shall have the meaning specified in section 1-2.19 of the estates, powers and trusts law and “similar instrument” shall include a revocable or irrevocable trust:

(i) if the petitioner or guardian can, with reasonable diligence, obtain a copy, a copy of the most recently executed will or similar instrument shall be attached to the petition;  in such case, the petition shall contain a statement as to how the copy was secured and the basis for the petitioner or guardian's belief that such copy is a copy of the incapacitated person's most recently executed will or similar instrument.

(ii) if the petitioner or guardian is unable to obtain a copy of the most recently executed will or similar instrument, or if the petitioner or guardian is unable to determine whether the incapacitated person has previously executed a will or similar instrument, what efforts were made by the petitioner or guardian to ascertain such information.

(iii) if a copy of the most recently executed will or similar instrument is not otherwise available, the court may direct an attorney or other person who has the original will or similar instrument in his or her possession to turn a photocopy over to the court for its examination, in camera.  A photocopy of the will or similar instrument shall then be turned over by the court to the parties in such proceeding unless the court finds that to do so would be contrary to the best interests of the incapacitated person;

7. a description of any significant gifts or patterns of gifts made by the incapacitated person;

8. the names, post-office addresses and relationships of the presumptive distributees of the incapacitated person as that term is defined in subdivision forty-two of section one hundred three of the surrogate's court procedure act and of the beneficiaries under the most recent will or similar instrument executed by the incapacitated person.

(c) Notice of a petition seeking relief under this section shall be served upon:

(i) the persons entitled to notice in accordance with paragraph one of subdivision (d) of section 81.07 of this article;

(ii) if known to the petitioner or guardian, the presumptive distributees of the incapacitated person as that term is defined in subdivision forty-two of section one hundred three of the surrogate's court procedure act unless the court dispenses with such notice;  and

(iii) if known to the petitioner or guardian, any person designated in the most recent will or similar instrument of the incapacitated person as beneficiary whose rights or interests would be adversely affected by the relief requested in the petition unless the court dispenses with such notice.

(d) In determining whether to approve the application, the court shall consider:

1. whether the incapacitated person has sufficient capacity to make the proposed disposition himself or herself, and, if so, whether he or she has consented to the proposed disposition;

2. whether the disability of the incapacitated person is likely to be of sufficiently short duration such that he or she should make the determination with respect to the proposed disposition when no longer disabled;

3. whether the needs of the incapacitated person and his or her dependents or other persons depending upon the incapacitated person for support can be met from the remainder of the assets of the incapacitated person after the transfer is made;

4. whether the donees or beneficiaries of the proposed disposition are the natural objects of the bounty of the incapacitated person and whether the proposed disposition is consistent with any known testamentary plan or pattern of gifts he or she has made;

5. whether the proposed disposition will produce estate, gift, income or other tax savings which will significantly benefit the incapacitated person or his or her dependents or other persons for whom the incapacitated person would be concerned;  and

6. such other factors as the court deems relevant.

(e) The court may grant the application if satisfied by clear and convincing evidence of the following and shall make a record of these findings:

1. the incapacitated person lacks the requisite mental capacity to perform the act or acts for which approval has been sought and is not likely to regain such capacity within a reasonable period of time or, if the incapacitated person has the requisite capacity, that he or she consents to the proposed disposition;

2. a competent, reasonable individual in the position of the incapacitated person would be likely to perform the act or acts under the same circumstances;  and

3. the incapacitated person has not manifested an intention inconsistent with the performance of the act or acts for which approval has been sought at some earlier time when he or she had the requisite capacity or, if such intention was manifested, the particular person would be likely to have changed such intention under the circumstances existing at the time of the filing of the petition.

(f) Nothing in this article imposes any duty on the guardian to commence a special proceeding pursuant to this article seeking to transfer a part of the assets of the incapacitated person to or for the benefit of another person and the guardian shall not be liable or accountable to any person for having failed to commence a special proceeding pursuant to this article seeking to transfer a part of the assets of the incapacitated person to or for the benefit of another person.



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