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Frequently Asked Questions about Guardianship

What problem do you address?

There are 23,345 individuals in New Jersey that the courts have deemed to be incapacitated that have an assigned guardian; almost 10,000 of them are aged 60 and over. Most of these people have family or friends able to take on the responsibility of making substitute decisions in areas such as medical care, housing, property and finances, and other areas related to the general health and wellbeing.

However, public guardianship occurs when the incapacitated person does not have a family or friend able to serve as their guardian, which occurs in a small but growing number of situations in New Jersey. Typically, these cases are referred to the Office of the Public Guardian who will assign the person to an individual working within the department. In 2020, OPG managed nearly 1250 wards (the term most frequently used for an incapacitated person). In contrast, VGOO manages approximately 20 cases each year, each assigned to one volunteer.

New Jersey expects to see the population of people over the age of 60 grow more than 30% between 2019-2029, with a corresponding increase in guardianship cases.

What does it mean to be incapacitated?

This means that someone is unable to care for themselves and/or their property. An incapacitated person suffers from a loss of autonomy or mental ability. In older adults this often happens as a result of stroke or Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

What is a guardian/guardianship?

This means someone is legally given responsibility by a judge to make substitute decisions regarding another person’s finances, health care, and/or daily life when they no longer have the capacity to do so for themselves.

What is community guardianship?

This is a term VGOO has coined to describe how we are different. We are the only nonprofit in New Jersey, and one of a handful in the country, that provide public guardianship services to incapacitated adults utilizing screened and trained volunteers in a one-on-one matched relationship.

Who are your volunteers?

Our volunteers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Many times, they have gone through a similar situation with a loved one or are motivated by the thought of who will be there for them should they be in need one day. They all share a desire to help someone in need and the time needed for monthly visits and other responsibilities.

How are people referred to you?

Our referrals come from a variety of sources including Adult Protective Services (APS), nursing homes, the county Surrogate’s office, hospitals and attorneys.

How does VGOO support the guardianship?

Once a VGOO-screened and trained volunteer is appointed to an incapacitated individual, we provide fiduciary oversight, mandatory reporting assistance, support with health and social service coordination, ongoing training, a minimum of monthly checks-ins, and annual visits to each incapacitated person.

How do you pay for your services?

VGOO receives approximately 80% of our funding through private grants and donations, about 10% from government sources, and the remaining from court-designated guardianship commissions.

I know someone who may need guardianship services. What should I do?

VGOO does not establish incapacitation- only the court can do that, and it requires someone to make a complaint to the court and the affidavits/certifications of two qualified physicians. If the individual has already been declared as incompetent or this is imminent, please call us at 908-483-5896 or email to refer a potential incapacitated person. VGOO has a process to determine if we are able to accept the referral based on the needs of the individual and if they can be met by one of our current inventory of screened and trained volunteers.

I am interested in volunteering! What should I do next?

If you are ready to volunteer, please submit the volunteer application. For more information, please call us at 908-483-5896 or email