In the Matter of Y.M., an Incapacitated Person, No. A-4532-16T4, 2018 WL 2922766 (N.J. Sup. Ct. App. Div. June 8, 2018).
In 2015, Y.M. was adjudicated an incapacitated person, and the New Jersey Office of the Public Guardian for Elderly Adults (OPG) was appointed guardian. The record reflected that Y.M. resided at Hudson View, a skilled nursing facility, and wasindigent.
OPG filed a Medicaid application on behalf of Y.M. The application was denied in May 2016. OPG appealed the Medicaid denial, but withdrew its appeal prior to a hearing before the administrative law judge. Hudson View then filed an emergent motion before the Probate Part to remove OPG as Y.M.’s guardian and instead appoint Sam Stern of Future Care Consultants or Paul McGinley, a nurse at various skilled facilities, as Y.M.’s guardian.
Hudson View argued that OPG had made errors in the Medicaid application process which resulted in a denial of benefits. Hudson View argued that OPG’s errors had harmed Y.M.’s interest, and thus Hudson View sought the appointment of Stern or McGinley, who had been appointed in similar actions in another county.
The probate judge denied Hudson View’s motion. The judge found that Hudson View had failed to properly address Y.M.’s best interest and prove how OPG had abused its fiduciary duty. Hudson View provided no information about Y.M. other than the fact that she lived at Hudson View and owed the facility money. Hudson View presented no information to indicate that Y.M. was dissatisfied with OPG. The court observed that Hudson View was merely seeking to further its own interest in satisfying Y.M.’s debt to the facility. The denial of Hudson View’s motion to remove OPG rested primarily on the court’s finding that Hudson View was acting to advance its own interest, not the interest of the incapacitated individual.
The moiton judge also ruled that the involvement of Stern and McGinley in previous litigation on behalf of Hudson View created a conflict, in the sense they would essentially be working for Hudson View rather than Y.M.
On appeal, Hudson View argued that the Probate Part judge abused her discretion by refusing to exercise oversight over OPG. Specifically, Hudson View argued that the motion judge was aware of OPG’s failure to secure Medicaid benefits, resulting in Y.M. accumulating debt she was unable to pay.
In affirming the Probate Part, the Appellate Division began by noting the statutory criteria for removing a guardian, N.J.S.A. 3B:14-21. The Appellate Division found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s finding that Hudson View was acting to advance its own interests, and had alleged no basis to remove OPG.
The court concluded, “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while OPG may have withdrawn its appeal of the first Medicaid denial, it filed a second application and continued to seek Medicaid eligibility for Y.M.”