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Friday, May 23, 2014

Sale of incapacitated persons land JOSEPH BURKE v. SEA POINT REALTORS

  400 N.J.Super. 398 (App. Div 2010)                                                                



May 30, 2008






ABELITE (both individually and in
his capacity as Guardian of Alfreds
Nikmanis, an incapacitated person),


                                                                                    APPELLATE DIVISION
                                                                                    DOCKET NO.  A-5652-06T1
May 30, 2008

Submitted March 31, 2008 - Decided

Before Judges Collester, C.S. Fisher and C.L. Miniman.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Docket No. L-928-06.

Joseph Burke and Timothy Burke, appellants pro se.

Orlovsky, Grasso, Bolger, Mensching & Daley, attorneys for respondents Sea Point Realtors, Thomas Meyer and Patricia Meyer (John J. Mensching, on the brief).

Mulvaney, Coronato & Brady, attorneys for respondent Dzintars Abelite (both individ-ually and in his capacity as Guardian of Alfred Nikmanis, an incapacitated person) (Terry F. Brady, on the brief).

            The opinion of the court was delivered by


            This case was triggered by a guardian's decision to retain defendant Sea Point Realty to market real property owned by the guardian's ward.  Without notice to plaintiffs or other disappointed offerors, the guardian obtained the Probate judge's approval of a conveyance to defendants Thomas and Patricia Meyer without clearly revealing that the Meyers were the principals of Sea Point.  Based on this and defendants' alleged attempts to discourage buyers during the marketing process, plaintiffs filed this action for damages.  We conclude that plaintiffs' claims were not precluded by the proceedings in the guardianship action and, with one exception, reverse the summary judgment entered in defendants' favor.

A. The Proceedings in
The Probate Part

             Alfreds Nikmanis was the owner of real property in Brick Township.  In light of his deteriorating physical and mental condition, his friend of many years, defendant Dzintars Abelite commenced an action, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 3B:13-1 to -31 and R. 4:86-1 to -6, for a declaration that Nikmanis was incapacitated and unable to manage his affairs.  On May 19, 2005, a judgment was entered that appointed Abelite as the guardian of Nikmanis's person and property.
            Abelite (the guardian) thereafter concluded that it was in Nikmanis's best interests to sell the Brick Township property and engaged Sea Point as his listing agent.  Sea Point received a number of offers, and the guardian thereafter filed an action in the Probate Part, pursuant to R. 4:94-1 to -7, seeking approval to sell the property to the Meyers.
            In his verified complaint, the guardian alleged that the property was purchased by Nikmanis in 1999 for $113,000 and was unencumbered.  He asserted that the Meyers' offer was the highest and urged its approval.  As more fully explored later, the guardian's papers did not make clear the existence of a relationship between the Meyers and Sea Point.  And, because of the limited class of persons given notice of the application, the application went unopposed and was apparently not further scrutinized by the Probate judge, who granted the guardian's application without explanation.[1]
B. The Proceedings in the
Law Division

            Upon learning of the Probate judge's determination, plaintiffs commenced this Law Division action -- against the guardian, the Meyers and Sea Point -- seeking damages based upon what they claim, among other things, was a fraudulent scheme to discourage buyers and to make the property available to the Meyers at the lowest possible price.  Plaintiffs asserted: that the guardian's submission to the Probate judge was inadequate and failed to disclose the Meyers-Sea Point relationship; that  the guardian's failure to give notice to them and the other disappointed offerors of the probate proceedings precluded deeper scrutiny of the guardian's submission; and that the Meyers, in their role as listing agent, discouraged potential purchasers by indicating that the property had many problems as a way of keeping down the amount of any bids received.
            By way of separate motions, all defendants obtained summary judgment.  The Law Division judge essentially based his rulings on the fact that plaintiffs never entered into an enforceable contract with the guardian, and that plaintiffs had no standing to be heard in the Probate Part, or, stated another way, that the Probate judge's approval of the sale of the property to the Meyers was conclusive.

            There is no dispute that the Meyers were then and are now the principals of Sea Point.  There is also no dispute that Sea Point was retained by the guardian to be the listing agent on this property.  In examining these facts in the light required by the Brill[2] standard, we are satisfied that it would have been of great interest to the Probate judge at the time she considered the guardian's sale of the property to the Meyers to know that the Meyers were the principals of Sea Point.  By entering into a listing agreement with the guardian, Sea Point and its representatives entered into a fiduciary relationship that required the "exercise [of] fidelity, good faith and primary devotion to the interests of [their] principal."  Exit A Plus Realty v. Zuniga, 395 N.J. Super. 655, 664 (App. Div. 2007) (quoting Ellsworth Dobbs, Inc. v. Johnson, 50 N.J. 528, 553 (1967)).
            Rule 4:94-3 authorizes a Probate judge to permit a sale of an incapacitated person's property if "the court is satisfied that the best interests of the ward would thereby be substantially promoted."  In her role of protector of the interests of the incapacitated person in this instance, it no doubt would have been important to the Probate judge to know that the principals of the listing agent were the proposed purchasers.  Although we may assume that relationship alone might not have been cause to completely disqualify the Meyers as purchasers -- an issue we need not decide -- the situation certainly warranted further scrutiny.  A fair reading of the record before the Probate judge indicates that the guardian failed to adequately disclose this information to the Probate judge and strongly suggests that the Probate judge ruled on the application without knowledge of the Meyers-Sea Point relationship.
            In applying to the Probate judge for approval of the sale, the guardian claimed that he spoke with "several realtors" and then "listed the property for sale."  His complaint did not mention that Sea Point was the listing agent or that the Meyers were the principals of Sea Point.  The guardian's moving certification similarly failed to adequately reveal the relationship between the Meyers and Sea Point.  Following his description of the parties, the property, and his reasons for selling, the guardian only set forth the following in his certification regarding the offers received and the reason why he believed it advantageous to sell to the Meyers:
            After speaking with several realtors, and with Alfreds himself, I listed the property for sale, and I received several offers.  The proposed contracts are attached as Exhibit B.  They show offers of $236,000, $235,500, $210,000, $241,900 (subject to a $218,000 mortgage contingency), & $200,000.  Based upon all of the offers, I believe that the offer of $236,000 from Thomas & Patricia Meyer was the most advantageous, and I ask the Court to approve this contract.  I note that Patricia Meyer is a realtor, and she is the proposed buyer as well.  Her proposed contract is 100% as-is, and I will not need to make any repairs of any kind.  Given the fact that the house has been vacant for some time, the house would otherwise be in need of substantial repairs, as can be seen from the terms of some of the other offers.

            . . . .

            I ask the Court to approve the Meyer contract for sale as-is at $236,000.

[Emphasis added.]

As can be seen, the guardian indicated only that Patricia Meyer was "a" realtor; he did not state that she was "the" realtor involved in marketing this property.
            To inhibit further inquiry, the guardian did not give notice of the application to any of the individuals who had an interest in contesting whether the guardian's decision to sell to the Meyers was appropriate.  The order to show cause entered by the Probate judge at the outset required that the guardian give notice to "any interested party."  The guardian apparently interpreted this to mean that notice should be given only to the Meyers, the ward, and the attorney appointed to represent the ward in the proceedings that led to the guardian's appointment.  The disappointed offerors on the property were not notified -- not surprisingly, no opposition was filed.
            Without objection from these other interested persons, it appears that the guardian's superficial certification went unexamined in the Probate Part.  It has been argued that the proposed contract attached to the certification resolves all doubts on the point and reveals the connection between the Meyers and Sea Point.  Although there is a provision in the contract that reveals this connection, we are not satisfied that this sufficiently informed the Probate judge of a circumstance that was highly significant to her determination of whether this transaction was in the incapacitated person's best interests.
            The contract identifies the purchasers of the property as "Thomas Meyer and Patricia Meyer," and gives what we assume was the address of their residence.  Later in the contract, Sea Point's address is identified as 1773 Route 88, Brick, an address different from the address given in the contract for the Meyers.  Thus, a cursory examination of the contract, limited to the identity of the purchasers and the identity of the listing agent, would fail to suggest a relationship between the Meyers and Sea Point.  Instead, the only indication of their relationship appears on the sixth page of the single-spaced contract, where it is stated in paragraph 29:  "Sea Point Realty . . . and Patricia Meyer . . . as its authorized representative(s), are working on this transaction as . . . seller's agents."  Sea Point and the Meyers are correct that their relationship is thus revealed by this attachment to the guardian's certification.  But, considering the lack of opposition to the application, it seems to us unlikely that the Probate judge was aware of this brief passage in the contract.  It certainly was not highlighted for the judge in the papers submitted by the guardian.  And the Probate judge's treatment of the application without a hearing or further inquiry suggests that the judge was understandably unaware of the Sea Point-Meyers' relationship.
            In addition, because of the failure to highlight the Meyers' relationship to Sea Point, the Probate judge may have labored under a misunderstanding about the amount of their offer.  The guardian's certification asserts that other than plaintiffs' $241,900 offer, which was viewed as less desirable because of a mortgage contingency, the Meyers' all-cash offer of $236,000 was the highest and best.  The Meyers' contract, which is attached to the guardian's certification, in fact indicates $236,000 as the purchase price, but it also reveals that Sea Point was entitled to be paid -- by the seller -- a 5% commission.  According to a HUD statement prepared for that subsequent transaction, Sea Point actually received that 5% commission -- $11,800 -- from the seller's funds at closing.  As a result, the property did not cost the Meyers $236,000, as suggested to the Probate judge.  Instead, the Meyers paid $236,000 and their real estate agency received back $11,800; in essence, defendants expended only $224,200 to obtain this property.  This would have been an important fact for the guardian to disclose in his certification.  Had the Probate judge been aware of this, she may have viewed the Meyers' offer differently and may have concluded that the marketing process was unfairly skewed to serve the Meyers' interests in the property.[3]  That is, in light of the benefit the Meyers received from their entitlement to a commission, they essentially had an approximate $11,800 "leg up" on their competition.
            In short, it cannot be disputed that it was important for the Probate judge to know of Sea Point's alleged self-dealing in this matter.  See Exit A Plus Realty, supra, 395 N.J. Super. at 664; R. 4:94-3.  The certification submitted by the guardian in seeking approval for the sale to the Meyers is somewhat disingenuous, leaving it to only the most careful reading of the attached contracts to learn of the relationship between the Meyers and Sea Point -- a fact that would have been highlighted in a candid certification.
            In light of these circumstances, the Law Division judge -- in considering the motions for summary judgment filed by these defendants -- was obligated by the Brill standard to assume that defendants had failed to adequately reveal relevant and material information in order to gain approval for a transaction that may have otherwise not passed muster with the Probate judge.

            Notwithstanding this analysis of the record in the probate proceedings, it has been argued to us that what occurred in the Probate Part is of no moment because plaintiffs had no standing to be heard there.  For present purposes we may assume the truth of the argument that in a situation like this, a guardian is not obligated by statute or rule to give notice to unsuccessful offerors, such as plaintiffs.  That does not, however, give license to conceal or to fail to thoroughly and candidly advise the court of relevant information.
            Although the court rules may not be entirely clear about who is entitled to notice when there is competition for property that a guardian proposes to sell,[4] experience suggests that the better practice has been to give notice of applications for the approval of transfers to all potentially interested persons, including unsuccessful offerors.[5]  In considering the motions for summary judgment in this case, the Law Division judge should have viewed the lack of notice to plaintiffs and other offerors of the probate proceedings as supporting an adverse inference about the bona fides of the guardian's request for approval of the sale.[6]
            For these reasons, we find no substance in the argument that plaintiffs' alleged lack of standing in the Probate Part somehow insulates the Probate judge's approval of the sale to the Meyers from further scrutiny by way of plaintiffs' action for damages against both the Meyers, Sea Point and the guardian.

            As we have observed, the Law Division judge's decision to grant summary judgment in favor of defendants was based only on his conclusion that plaintiffs never entered into a contract with the guardian for the purchase of this property.  That factual conclusion is unimpeachable and certainly warrants dismissal of plaintiffs' breach of contract claim, but it does not conclude the matter.  The essential thrust of plaintiffs' complaint is their claim of fraud and tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage, which bespeak the absence of an enforceable contract.  That is, those claims do not require proof of a contract, but instead are based on the allegation that plaintiffs were precluded from entering into a contract by the wrongful actions of defendants.[7]  The written decision rendered by the Law Division judge on September 25, 2006 certainly contains adequate support for the dismissal of plaintiffs' breach of contract claim, but it has no ostensible bearing on the remainder of the complaint.
            We also discern from the oral argument on these motions that the Law Division judge may have believed the Probate judge's ruling was unimpeachable and that he was required to defer and assume that the Meyers were the legitimate purchasers of this property.  Any such conclusion is, at best, arguable and certainly not so clear as to permit the entry of summary judgment.  Indeed, in considering the remaining counts of the complaint following our remand, the trial judge should not assume that plaintiffs are precluded by the probate proceedings if for no other reason than plaintiffs were not parties to the probate proceeding and, thus, "did not have a 'full and fair opportunity' to litigate the issue in the earlier case."  Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 95, 101 S. Ct. 411, 415, 66 L. Ed. 2d 308, 313 (1980) (citation omitted); see also Biddle v. Biddle, 166 N.J. Super. 1, 5 (App. Div. 1979).  Moreover, as we have indicated, the Probate judge's decision may have rested on misinformation -- yet another reason to deny it the preclusive effect normally associated with final judgments.  See Restatement (Second) of Judgments §§ 28, 29 (1982).
            During the colloquy between the Law Division judge and counsel it also appears that the judge was critical of plaintiffs' failure to come forward with greater proof of the fraud or conspiracy they were asserting.  On remand, the judge must remain mindful that an alleged victim of fraud rarely has access to that type of information.  See, e.g., Ocean Cape Hotel Corp. v. Masefield Corp., 63 N.J. Super. 369, 383 (App. Div. 1960).  It was enough, at the summary judgment stage, that plaintiffs were able to demonstrate that the relationship between the Meyers and Sea Point was inadequately disclosed to the Probate judge.  Plaintiffs could not have been expected at that stage -- at least when it appears that discovery had not been completed -- to provide certifications about the actual terms of the alleged conspirators' agreement.  Victims of fraud rarely have access to the inner-workings of their adversaries' minds.  See Wilson v. Amerada Hess Corp., 168 N.J. 236, 253-54 (2001).
            And, lastly, Sea Point and Meyers have argued on appeal that their motion for summary judgment went unopposed.  It is true that this was the status of the motion when it first was heard by the trial judge.  Counsel for plaintiffs at that time argued that his earlier papers -- we assume he was referring to plaintiff's opposition to the guardian's motion for summary judgment -- sufficed to defeat the other defendants' motion for summary judgment.  But the trial judge correctly disagreed and appropriately adjourned the motion in order to permit the filing of proper opposing papers.  Plaintiffs took advantage of this opportunity and filed a certification in which the questions surrounding the probate proceeds were summarized; the certification further asserted that Sea Point had acted unethically and that pretrial discovery had not been concluded, thus challenging the propriety of summary judgment.  In short, we find no substance to the argument that the motion of Sea Point and Meyers was unopposed because the record on appeal contains an opposing certification and the Law Division judge did refer to and consider it in ruling on the motion.[8]

            For these reasons, we affirm only those parts of the orders under review that dismissed, by way of summary judgment, plaintiffs' breach of a contract claim.  We reverse in all other respects and remand for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.
            We do not retain jurisdiction.

[1]The record on appeal does not contain a transcript of any proceedings the Probate judge may have conducted in ultimately determining to approve the sale, and the order entered at the time does not indicate the existence of either an oral or written decision.
[2]Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).
[3]We recognize in this regard that any other purchaser would have likely been obligated to pay this commission to Sea Point as well, thus netting to the ward's estate the same amount.  But the fact remains that Sea Point was entitled to a 5% commission, and, as a result, the Meyers gained a distinct advantage over their competition for this property.
[4]Rule 4:94-2, which indicates the circumstances that would permit a guardian to sell a ward's property, does not define the class of persons entitled to notice except to indicate that the ward need not be given notice unless the court otherwise orders.

[5]Practitioners often give notice to disappointed offerors for no other reason than to insulate the transaction from future claims by those parties.

[6]We would respectfully suggest that the Civil Practice Committee consider examining the feasibility of a rule change to avoid potential circumstances such as that which may have occurred here.
[7]For example, the claim that Sea Point and the Meyers tortiously interfered with plaintiffs' prospective economic advantage, in these circumstances, is dependent upon proof that plaintiffs did not enter into a contract with the guardian.  Plaintiffs did not need to prove an enforceable contract on this claim but instead needed only to show that they were in pursuit of an economic advantage, which was intentionally and with malice interfered with by the defendant, that the interference caused the loss of the prospective gain, and that they were damaged.  Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Electronics Corp., 116 N.J. 739, 751-52 (1989).  In addition, we discern from plaintiffs' complaint and their submissions in the Law Division and in this court, that they are arguing, somewhat inartfully, that a bidding process was generated with regard to this property.  A party that loses such a contest is not foreclosed from arguing the process was infected with fraudulent conduct and such a claim may be actionable pursuant to the Consumer Fraud Act.  See Jackson v. Manasquan Savings Bank, 271 N.J. Super. 136 (Law Div. 1993).
[8]In finding no merit in plaintiffs' arguments, the Law Division judge in a very brief oral decision rejected plaintiffs' contention that Sea Point was plaintiffs' agent.  That conclusion was certainly supported by the record but it was not conclusive on the other arguments raised by plaintiffs.

3B:13-1 "Uniform Veterans' Guardianship Law."

3B:13-1 .  Short title
    This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the  "Uniform Veterans' Guardianship Law."
3B:13-2  Definitions.
3B:13-2.  As used in this chapter:

a."Federal agency" means any bureau, office, board, or officer of the United States by whatever name known, now or hereafter charged by Congress:

(1)With payment of pensions, bounties, and allowances to veterans of the military service of the United States, their widows, widowers, children, mothers, and fathers; or

(2)With the administration of the affairs of any of the aforesaid persons who may be minors or persons who are incapacitated or with the management of pensions, bounties, and allowances payable to them.

b."Military" has reference to the army, navy, marine, air, and coast guard services.

c."Estate" and "income" include only moneys received by the guardian from a Federal agency and earnings, interest, and profits derived therefrom.

d."Benefits" means moneys payable by the United States to the aforesaid persons or their guardians through a Federal agency.

e."Chief officer" means an officer of a Federal agency, charged by the laws of the United States with the particular duty in connection with which the term is used.

f."Ward" means a beneficiary of a Federal agency.

g."Guardian" means a person acting as fiduciary for a ward.

amended 2013, c.103, s.25.
3B:13-3.  General rules of construction    This chapter shall be liberally construed to secure the beneficial intent and purpose thereof and shall apply only to beneficiaries enumerated in N.J.S. 3B:13-2.  This chapter shall also be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law of those states which enact the  "Uniform Veterans' Guardianship Act."

3B:13-4.  Fees and costs    Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no costs or fees shall be charged or taxed by the surrogates of the respective counties or by the Superior Court for accounts rendered or other proceedings had under this chapter.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-4, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-5.  No charges to be made for copies of certain records    When a copy of a public record is required by a Federal agency for use in determining the eligibility of a person to participate in benefits made available by the agency, the official charged with the custody of the public record shall furnish a certified copy of the record without charge.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-5, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-6  Determination of incapacity by Superior Court. 
3B:13-6.  For the purpose of appointing a guardian pursuant to this chapter, the incapacity of a beneficiary of a Federal agency shall be determined by the Superior Court.

3B:13-7 Guardians; when and how appointed. 
3B:13-7.  When, pursuant to any law of the United States or regulation of a Federal agency, the chief officer of the agency requires, prior to payment of benefits, that a guardian be appointed for a ward, the appointment for a person who is incapacitated shall be made in the Superior Court, and the appointment for a minor shall be made in the Superior Court or in the surrogate's court.

amended 2013, c.103, s.27.
3B:13-8  Guardian to have no more than five wards; exceptions.
3B:13-8.  Except as provided in this section, no person shall accept appointment as guardian of a ward if acting as guardian for five wards.

In an action brought by an attorney of a Federal agency, establishing that a guardian is acting in a fiduciary capacity for more than five wards, the Superior Court shall require a final accounting forthwith from the guardian and shall discharge the guardian.

The limitation of this section shall not apply where the guardian is a bank or trust company or a public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated, and an individual may be guardian of more than five wards if they are all members of the same family.

amended 2013, c.103, s.28.
3B:13-9.  Filing account with the court    Every guardian appointed by the surrogate of any county or by the Superior Court, who receives any moneys from a Federal agency for the benefit of his ward, shall, at intervals as the court may require, render to the Superior Court a true account of all moneys received by him, as guardian, by way of pension, bounty or other allowance from the United States.  The account shall be submitted in duplicate.
3B:13-10.  Filing account with Federal agency    Each year when not required to render an account to the court, the guardian  shall render an account to the regional office of the Veterans' Administration  on forms to be supplied by the Federal agency.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-10, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-11.  Times for accounting    The times for rendering accounts shall be as follows:

    a.  In the counties of Hudson, Somerset or Sussex, on or before January 5;

     b.  In the counties of Warren or Essex, on or before February 5;

     c.  In the counties of Bergen, Morris or Passaic, on or before March 5;

     d.  In the counties of Union, Hunterdon or Middlesex, on or before April 5;

     e.  In the counties of Mercer, Burlington, Monmouth or Gloucester, on or before May 5;

     f.  In the counties of Camden, Atlantic or Salem, on or before June 5;

     g.  In the counties of Cape May, Cumberland or Ocean, on or before July 5.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-11, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-12.  Notice to Federal agency    The clerk of the court shall, within 5 days of the date of filing of the account, mail a copy of the account to the office of the Veterans' Administration having jurisdiction over the area in which the county lies.
3B:13-13.  Accounting without filing vouchers    The Superior Court may allow the account without proof or the submission of  vouchers if the written approval of the attorney in this State for the Veterans' Administration shall be filed with the account. The approval shall set forth the facts upon which the approval is based.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-13, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-14.  Removal of guardian for failure to account;  costs    If the Federal agency, the sureties on the guardian's bond, any person interested in the benefits in the hands of the guardian or any person as next friend of the ward serves notice upon the guardian that his account has not been filed in accordance with this article, and if the guardian fails to render  his account within 30 days from the date of mailing of the notice or from the  time of service or within the time as the court may otherwise provide, the  court shall remove him.  The notice may be mailed to the guardian's last known  address.

    The cost of the proceedings, as well as the cost incident to an order to show cause when it is necessary to obtain an accounting, shall be paid by the guardian out of his own estate, unless the court shall otherwise order.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-14, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-15.  Investments    A guardian shall invest the funds of the estate in a manner and in securities, in which the guardian has no interest, as allowed by law or approved by the court.
3B:13-16.  Support of dependents    When directed in writing by the proper Federal agency, the guardian shall apply that portion of the estate to the ward's spouse, child, father or mother as may be set forth in the direction.  The direction shall be submitted to the Superior Court when an account is filed as proof of the guardian's authority for those payments.

    Except as permitted by this section, a guardian shall not apply any of the estate of his ward to the support of any person other than his ward.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-16, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-17.  Compensation of guardian    Compensation payable to a guardian shall not exceed 5% of the income of the  ward during any year.

    For extraordinary services rendered by the guardian, the Superior Court may,  after hearing upon the settlement of his account, authorize additional compensation payable from the estate of the ward, but no compensation shall be allowed on the corpus of an estate received from a preceding guardian.

    The guardian may be allowed from the estate of his ward reasonable premiums  paid by him to a corporate surety upon his bond.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-17, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-18  Authorization for guardian of incapacitated ward to receive additional personal property not exceeding $10,000. 
3B:13-18.  When a ward for whom a guardian has been appointed is incapacitated and becomes entitled to personal property amounting to not more than $10,000.00 from any source other than the United States Government, the court may authorize the guardian to receive the personal property for conservation and administrative care.  On payment of any money or delivery of property to the guardian, a release executed by the guardian to the person or persons paying the money or delivering the property shall be valid and effective.

3B:13-19.  Direction of court for expenditure required;  investment    The guardian shall not expend any portion of the personal property received  from any source other than the United States Government, except as directed by  the court to which he is accountable;  but he may invest the personal property  as provided by N.J.S. 3B:13-15.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-19, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-20.  Fees    The fees allowed by law shall be applicable to proceedings with respect to personal property received from sources other than the United States Government, and may be taxed by the clerk of the court.

     L.1981, c. 405, s. 3B:13-20, eff. May 1, 1982.
3B:13-21  "Public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated." 
3B:13-21.  There may be appointed in each county a person to be known as "public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated for the county of (naming county)", who shall be appointed by the Assignment Judge of the Superior Court in the county.  The person appointed shall hold office for the term of five years from the date of appointment and until a successor is appointed and qualified.

3B:13-22  Guardian's bond. 
3B:13-22.  Before entering upon the duties of office, a public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated shall execute a bond to the Superior Court in an amount and with sureties as shall be approved by the Superior Court, conditioned for the faithful discharge of all duties imposed by law upon the person appointed public guardian.

The bond shall be renewed annually and shall, from time to time, be increased or reduced as the court may direct.

The expense of procuring the bond shall be paid by the county treasurer upon presentation of a proper voucher approved by the Assignment Judge of the Superior Court in the county.

amended 2013, c.103, s.31.
3B:13-23  Salary of public guardian.
3B:13-23.  A public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated shall receive an annual salary to be fixed by the Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of the county for which the guardian is appointed, with the approval of the board of freeholders or governing body of the county.

The salary shall be paid by the county treasurer in semimonthly payments and shall be in lieu of all other charges, compensation, and commissions.  A guardian shall not accept any other money whatsoever by way of fee, compensation, gratuity, or present for any services provided by the guardian.

amended 2013, c.103, s.32.
3B:13-24  Duties of public guardian as adviser of other guardians. 
3B:13-24.  The public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated shall, in each county, assist, supervise, advise, and otherwise aid the duly appointed guardians of these veterans and give help as may be necessary in preparing and drawing papers and documents, and also help them to work in conjunction with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, so that their wards may be fully protected.

3B:13-25  Discharge and removal of public guardian. 
3B:13-25.  The public guardian of  veterans who are incapacitated shall be subject to discharge or removal, by the court, on the grounds and in the manner in which other guardians of persons who are incapacitated are discharged or removed.

amended 2013, c.103, s.34.
3B:13-26  Public guardian may be appointed general guardian for veteran. 
3B:13-26.  Where an action is brought in the Superior Court for the appointment of a guardian for a person who, while in the military, naval, marine, air, or coast guard service of the United States, or after discharge therefrom, is determined to be incapacitated, whether or not committed or confined to an institution for the care of persons who are incapacitated, and the heirs of the person are unwilling, unable, or unqualified for the appointment, or if the best interests of the person require it, the Superior Court may appoint the public guardian of the county in which the person resides as guardian of the person.

amended 2013, c.103, s.35.
3B:13-27  Powers of public guardian as guardian of veterans' estates. 
3B:13-27.  The public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated shall have, in respect of any veteran and the estate of any veteran for whom the public guardian is appointed, the same power and authority as any other duly appointed guardian of a person who is incapacitated.

amended 2013, c.103, s.36.

3B:13-28  Settlement of accounts.
3B:13-28.  The public guardian shall settle accounts in each estate in which the guardian is appointed at the times and in the same manner as other guardians of persons who are incapacitated.

amended 2013, c.103, s.37.
3B:13-29  Termination of guardianship; settlement of account.
3B:13-29.  Upon the termination of a guardianship, by death of the ward or otherwise, the public guardian shall settle the account in the same manner as other guardians of persons who are incapacitated.

amended 2013, c.103, s.38.
3B:13-30.  Settlement of accounts upon expiration of public guardian's term    The public guardian shall proceed to settle the accounts of all estates of which he is duly appointed guardian upon the expiration of his term of office.
3B:13-31  Counsel to represent public guardian; compensation. 
3B:13-31.  The public guardian of veterans who are incapacitated may, when authorized by the Superior Court, employ counsel to represent the public guardian.

The compensation of counsel shall be fixed by the court and paid from moneys in the guardian's control belonging to the estate involved in litigation.

amended 2013, c.103, s.39.
3B:13A-1  Definitions.
a."Conservatee" means a person who has not been adjudicated incapacitated but who by reason of advanced age, illness, or physical infirmity, is unable to care for or manage property or has become unable to provide self-support or support for others who depend upon that support.

b."Conservator" means a person appointed by the court to manage the estate of a conservatee.

amended 2013, c.103, s.40.
3B:13A-2.  Civil action to appoint conservator    The Superior Court may, in a civil action brought by the conservatee or some  other person in his behalf, appoint a conservator to manage the estate of a  conservatee, except that if the conservatee objects to the imposition of a  conservatorship, a conservator shall not be appointed.
3B:13A-3.  Appointment of counsel to represent conservatee    The court shall have the right to appoint counsel for the proposed conservatee if it believes that counsel is necessary to adequately protect the interests of the conservatee.

     L.1983, c. 192, s. 1, eff. May 23, 1983.
3B:13A-4.  Conservatee to be present at hearing;  court ordered investigation if conservatee unable to attend    The conservatee shall be present at the hearing unless he is unable to attend by reason of physical or other inability, and that inability is established to the satisfaction of the court.  If the conservatee is found to be unable to attend, the court shall, subject to rules of court, order an investigation to be conducted to assure the conservatee does not object to the conservatorship unless the court believes, in its discretion, that the interests of the conservatee are adequately protected by counsel representing the conservatee.

     L.1983, c. 192, s. 1, eff. May 23, 1983.
3B:13A-5.    By whom action for appointment of conservator in behalf of conservatee may be brought       3B:13A-5.  By whom action for appointment of conservator in behalf of conservatee may be brought.  An action for the appointment of a conservator may be brought by the conservatee as provided in section 3B:13A-2 or in the conservatee's behalf by: 

    a.   His spouse;

      b.   His adult children or, where there are none, the person or persons closest in degree of kinship to the conservatee;

      c.   Any person having concern for the financial or personal well-being of the conservatee;

      d.   A public agency or a social services official of the State or of the county in which the conservatee resides regardless of whether or not the conservatee is a recipient of public assistance; or

      e.   The chief administrator of a State licensed hospital, school or institution in which the conservatee is a patient or from which he receives services.

      f.   The chief administrator of a non-profit charitable institution in which the conservatee is a patient or from which he receives services.