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McCurrie McCurrie
& McCurrie, L.L.C.

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Guardianship finally lifted after Toms River man's recovery

If you are planning to live out your days in New Jersey, you may be interested in the story of an elderly Toms River man who found himself a ward of the state after a nasty fall left him with a traumatic brain injury. The accident happened two years ago, and he admittedly became unable to handle his own affairs and was deemed mentally incapacitated by the state.

In accordance with New Jersey's guardianship laws, a public guardian began making decisions regarding the man's assets and medical treatment. However, a year after his fall, the man's condition improved remarkably, and he sought to have the incapacity judgment lifted.

Unfortunately, the desired reversal wasn't forthcoming, and the man spent more than a year trying to regain control of his life. Eventually he sought the help of an attorney, but not before the public guardian sold much of the man's property to pay for the cost of the his assisted-living care and other expenses.

He also lost his savings of $65,000, and now his townhouse is in foreclosure and has a lien against it because of unpaid maintenance fees. The man was also left $1,700 behind on utility payments, so those services were turned off.

In other words, the picture looked bleak.

New Jersey law allows for a public guardian to sell a ward's assets to pay off that person's debt in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. However, an elder law attorney can help an individual draft other documents -- a trust, living will or durable power of attorney -- to avoid some of the problems faced by this man.

In December, a judge finally lifted the plenary guardianship, and the man was able to return to his townhouse. He will have to start over with very little money, however, and New Jersey residents will undoubtedly wish him well after such a difficult struggle.

Source: USA Today, "N.J. man free of guardianship he said he no longer needs," Shannon Mullen, Dec. 23, 2013

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